Tracy mayor should reject calls to stifle public comment
Tracy’s City Council is stuck in turmoil. Monday night, its mayor expressed frustration over maintaining control over “negativity” that is poisoning the community.
During the City Council meeting, Mayor Steve Ferrazzano announced the resignation of Councilman Bill Chukuske. The mayor said Chukuske had emailed his resignation letter to him before the meeting started.
As Ferrazzano said during his comments at the meeting, City Hall is now dealing with the second resignation within the past 60 days. Also, another councilman is facing a recall election in February.
In the resignation letter read by Ferrazzano, Chukuske blamed a “negative” force for leaving the Council and the recall election. Chukuske pointed to a “select group of people” who have been “expressing their opinions.”
“If these negative people are not quieted down, the city will go nowhere,” Chukuske said, according to Ferrazzano.
After reading Chukuske’s statement, the mayor expressed his frustration. He expressed a desire to “end the “dysfunction” to “move forward.” He also warned that the “negativity” must stop “because we have reached the tipping point.”
City Hall, it appears is heading for a tipping point for a number of reasons. The recall effort was spurred because of allegations of inappropriate behavior by a councilman. Citizens also shared publicly during the meetings concerns over how certain members of the council were conducting themselves during meetings during certain votes. These citizens have levied allegations of repeated violations of city statutes over the past years.
Perhaps the city attorney could be asked to provide more guidance so council members are assured their actions follow Minnesota and city statutes.
However, if any of these allegations are true, it makes for a troubling situation at City Hall. And citizens of any community with these kinds of concerns have the right to express them. One of the avenues of expression for citizens is through the public forum.
The mayor said he has been urged to eliminate the public forum, which he said he rejected. But he went on to express frustration over personal attacks during the forum. He hinted of some possible limits. It’s true such comments are difficult for council members to hear. Thick skin is in order for any person committed to public service. Of course, there are a number of steps the mayor can take to keep public forums in order. Citizens who are put on an agenda to speak should be given a copy of the “rules of conduct” which lists a time limit for speaking and other city limitations. However, those limitations should not stifle opinions.
Council members should also be allowed to respond to any allegations during their time to speak.
Every city deals with perceived “negativity.” However, oppressing opinions and concerns is not the right path to take. We urge the mayor to continue to reject the “quieted down” calls.