Gahan and Coffey Together Forever, Part 6: Let’s hear it from the council: Can taxpayers speak openly during their time, or does the Wizard decide who is heard? (24 January 2009).


LAST: Gahan and Coffey Together Forever, Part 5: Did you know that humanity poses the greatest threat to the natural habitat of copperheads? (22 January 2009).

Let’s rephrase the question for 2017: Can taxpayers speak openly during their “agenda” and non-agenda” council time, or does Pat McLaughlin decide who is heard?

It’s a trick question, because McLaughlin doesn’t make decisions without the approval of his wet nurses. More on that in a later installment.

For now, it’s enough to know that among the many points of order shared by Jeff Gahan and Dan Coffey, prime among these is an all-encompassing aversion to dialogue. It’s why Coffey screams at council speakers, and also why Gahan rarely emerges from his command bunker.

It’s also worth recalling that throughout this period of time in early 2009, Gahan and Coffey constantly reinforced each other by upholding the principle that if citizens don’t stand for public office, they aren’t the sort of citizens who merit engagement in the courtesy dialogue.

How dare mere taxpayers take an interest in redistricting?

You think Trump invented totalitarian knee-jerks? Gahan and Coffey just might be receiving residuals from The Donald.

Let’s hear it from the council: Can taxpayers speak openly during their time, or does the Wizard decide who is heard?

24 January 2009

My memory is hazy as to when the city council agenda was altered to include “miscellaneous communications” at meeting’s end. An admittedly cursory glance at archived minutes suggests this “non-agenda item” speaking time first appeared at the beginning of 2007, although I persist in thinking that the topic came up earlier than that.

It is a recurring feature of council meetings – in fact, of most if not all political discourse, here or elsewhere – for elected officials to pay lip service to the principle of honoring and serving the taxpayer. Naturally, this brings up the side issue of why only taxpayers are eligible for service, but the point remains that of all the conceivable ways that a councilman might observe this dictum, sitting quietly and listening for five minutes while a taxpayer speaks to the assembled body strikes me as the barest of minimums.

As was made clear last Thursday, Dan Coffey cannot even achieve the bare minimum when it comes to the notion of free and open speech for the taxpayer, although the current council president has never hesitated to reference his obligation to the taxpayer during the act of filibustering, grandstanding or scratching the anti-intellectual itch that feeds his all too frequent, apparently uncontrollable frenzies.

As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, it isn’t as if Coffey’s totalitarian impulses have never before been witnessed. Back in 2005, when for the very first time I decided to make comments during the public communications portion of the meeting, Coffey interrupted me, disagreed with me, and hectored me from his seat near then-president Gahan … who sat passively upon his gavel.

Almost four years later, this time as the council’s president, Coffey treated Mark Cassidy in precisely the same way. Not only did Gahan – Geppetto to Coffey’s Pinocchio – again sit silently, but so did the remainder of the council, many of whom subsequently have suggested that Coffey’s behavior disturbed them.

My question to the council: If so, and when confronted by damaging loutishness, why sit passively and do nothing?

Those members of the city council who are not animated by vendettas, and who are capable of comporting themselves with the professionalism and dignity demanded of those who have been elected to public office, are sorely in need of a reality check. Each time that Dan Coffey embarrasses the council without correction or rebuke, he is, in effect, branding the council’s “product” – and the image he is giving the product, whether the council’s image or the city’s itself, is tantamount to the consumer’s reaction upon encountering a jar of peanut butter with the words “now with salmonella” printed boldly on the label.

Geppetto apparently likes his creation just fine, although why is a mystery for the ages, but for the remainder of the council, it’s time now to lead and to do something, not merely be content to wave blank sheets of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement stationary at the ogre and say, “don’t let it happen again, or we’re going to do something!”

Do it now, and send a message to the people in this city who genuinely are working toward a better future that you actually get it.

Beginning on February 2nd, I intend to avail myself of miscellaneous communications time at every opportunity. As a taxpayer, and in consideration of the council’s own speaking policy, I will be approaching the podium with the expectation of five uninterrupted minutes in which to enlighten our elected representatives on a wide variety of topics. I may read from the phone book, or quote passages of HL Mencken’s on the subject of political cupidity. Perhaps a verbatim run-through of my latest column will strike me as appropriate, or a recital of a previous meeting’s minutes.

I may even have my five-minute appearances filmed, and post them on YouTube.

The question: Is this my right as a taxpayer, or isn’t it?

We know how Dan “Copperhead” Coffey would answer this question … but what about the other council members, whose stock plunges further with each passing day of inaction?

“Peace” in our time … or finally doing the right thing?

NEXT: Gahan and Coffey Together Forever, Part 7: Hot toadstools and cold cappuccino (29 January 2009).