New columnist jumps right in
But never one to be shy about expressing a viewpoint, I guess that’s why I was offered this column. I can’t steal Joan River’s line “Can we Talk?” And I’m not much of a touchy-feelytype, so “Can we share?” is out of the question. So I suppose I’ll have to settle in for awhile before I can come up with a tagline that is comfortable.
In the meantime, the point in writing this column is to express a viewpoint that doesn’t always make the “news,” but in fact may be more newsworthy than a lot of the fill-in-the-spaces copy that we suffer through. But of course, that’s a point of view in and of itself because it presupposes that the public reads in order to become informed on something.
So my mission is to provide you with another way of looking at things and hopefully some inside information. Now in the strict sense, it’s not inside information at all, but it may as well be because in most cases, the information is exchanged when no one is looking.So what the heck, I really intended to use this first column just to say hi, but I may as well jump right in.
The “when no one is looking” that I’m talking about is the afternoon Vail Town Council session, affectionately known as the “work session” by those in the know. They happen twice a month (down from four times a month, thank God) on the same day as the evening sessions, known as the Town Council meeting.
Now this alone is confusing because the Town Council does meet in the afternoon, but it’s the evening session that’s known as the Town Council meeting. So what are they doing in the afternoon work session? Well, they are posturing themselves as to what positions they will take in the evening session when the TV cameras are rolling.
You might ask, So what’s the problem? Well, come sometime and you’ll find out. You’ll discover that most of the serious discussion and exchange of opinions happen in the afternoon. Let’s say the nuts and bolts, the meat and potatoes, the crux of the matters all get sanitized for the “folks at home,” as one councilman likes to refer to the voting public.
Now this isn’t on every issue, and they don’t actually vote in the afternoon. But all of the real “just between us” on the major issues gets processed in the afternoon.
And when they’re really trying to keep it among themselves, they sit in a circle. No kidding. So far they haven’t broken into any camp songs, but into the circle they go with microphones off.
When a noted local reporter commented a few weeks ago that he couldn’t hear, the response was “Good!” Kind of makes you wonder. Especially when we hear a lot of rhetoric about open and honest dialogue, public participation, and community involvement.
These work sessions, their timing, lack of TV coverage, and the general attitude surrounding them says loud and clear that this is a closed conversation and that they don’t want to include the public, no matter what lip service they give to being inclusive. At the very least, those who take the time to attend these meetings should be given the courtesy of being able to hear.
Until this community starts demanding accessibility to the process at all levels, things will not change. Elected officials are not smarter that the electors and if they think they are, they’re mistaken. But if they think they are simply better informed, then they have a responsibility to inform.
So where do we start? Is there a solution to this problem? You betcha. Either cancel the work sessions and go to longer Town Council meetings (aka evening sessions) or televise the work sessions. Not that we’ll actually have any better clue about what they’re doing because I’m not sure they do most of the time. Maybe with the microphones off, they can’t hear each other. And is there an outside chance that actually hearing most of the nonsense in that room falls under the category of being careful what you wish for?
In the meantime, I’ll continue to attend these meetings, as I have for years. I’m sure that alone will provide enough topics for this column, providing, of course, that I get a hearing aide.
Kaye Ferry, Vail resident and business owner, is a longtime observer of Vail government. She was the founding president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association. She will write a weekly column for the Daily.
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