Shame

July 25, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I went to bed angry last night. I made the mistake of reading journalstar.com before I hit the sack. It was there that I first heard about the City Council’s shameful actions. It wasn’t their vote—saying no to the proposed concealed carry ban—but the method that ticks me off. Long story short, they told Lincolnites to buzz off. They don’t need any input from us lowly citizens.

Let’s be clear here, there is one justification for their actions. If the Council was so convinced that next week’s public input process on the proposal would be a waste of time, if they were 100% certain that their vote would be nay, and that any public discussion would be worthless, the members would have an argument for shutting down public input. But it would be a weak argument.

The City Council’s action yesterday was shameful. It sent a powerful message: the Council knows what’s best for Lincoln, and they don’t need to bother hearing the whinings of the proletariat. It’s a message City leaders have sent before, and it’s one Lincolnites need to stop putting up with. Such a message represents a reversal in the understanding of who works for whom in this town. It is a power grab.

I don’t care about the vote itself. Concealed carry is mostly a symbolic gesture. Permitting it or banning it is more about saying something about the Second Amendment than it is about achieving anything practical. That’s not what angers me.

What angers me is that the City Council dropped a big turd on the democratic process. Process matters, moreso at the local level than anywhere else. If a citizenry cannot participate in local lawmaking, how can they be expected to feel like they have a voice at any level? How can they have any sense of efficacy at all?

The public input phase in local lawmaking is mostly done out of routine, not because it actually changes lawmakers’ minds. So skipping next week’s public input probably won’t make a bit of a difference in the final outcome. But that isn’t the point. The point is that allowing Lincolnites to speak publically would have made them feel good, about themselves and about their cause. And about participating in democracy at the local level. The cost to the City Council of letting the public speak? A couple hours of boredom. The cost to the City Council of cutting off public discussion before it could begin? An immeasurable loss of trust, not only in the Council, but in local government generally.

Remember last year’s City Council election that supposedly shook things up? Wrong. It’s the same old City Council, making the same elementary mistakes.

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The Comments

Dave K July 25, 2006 at 1:53pm

On the one hand, it’s nice to see LCC get something done without pussyfooting around for months.  On the other hand, your points are valid.  Not because I think the people have any special right to be heard at a LCC session, their rights are exercised in May and November.  I do, however, think they should have at least given some token time to a few people to say what they’d like.  Casady looked as if he was going to cry, and Seng was pissed (the latter to which I shamelessly take full gratification).  Unfortunately, the issue now becomes the LCC instead of the CCW, which could have been avoided.

Michael July 25, 2006 at 3:19pm

On the other other hand, if you feel strongly about an issue, you always have the right to communicate your concerns to your council representative(s).

Email addresses are right there on the city website. Phone numbers are in the blue pages.

I’m not sure further public hearing would make Lincolnites “feel better”. If there were public hearing before the decision, the winners would end up feeling good, while the losers would grumble and say, “City Council never listens!”

In other words, the outcome is not any different—for the issue or the people speaking at the public hearing.

Mr. Wilson July 25, 2006 at 3:29pm

On the other other hand, if you feel strongly about an issue, you always have the right to communicate your concerns to your council representative(s).

That’s true only to a point. I trust you aren’t suggesting that an e-mail, phone call, or letter is qualitatively identical to a personal presentation. I can always write a letter to Rep. Fortenberry, but that’s not the same as testifying before a Congressional committee.

Gunscribe July 25, 2006 at 3:45pm

Although I am elated with the decision, I am somewhat dismayed with the timing of it as well.

I would however like to submit the following;

I have been in constant contact with members of the Council from the very begining on this. The amount of information already presented to them from both sides of the issue is enormous. I think they have all been given all the facts, figures and emotional arguements that can be raised. A public hearing might make some people feel better but it would be rather redundant at this point.

The reality of the whole thing is that they have not shut the public down from commenting at a public hearing. All the Council has done is postpone it, thus giving the new state law a chance. If it turns out to be a non issue as it has been in 46 other states then no harm no foul. If Lincolnites prove to be the dreaded exception and start shooting up the streets over parking spaces then it can be revisited. If Lincolnites prove to be the demon seed that Stephen King writes about then public comment won’t be necessary, our actions will have spoken for themselves and no amount of comment will prevent the ban from being enacted.

All the City Council has done is allow the new law a chance to work. That is the fair thing to do since the proposal is a knee jerk whiny crybaby reaction to irrattional fear of an innanimate object.

Michael July 26, 2006 at 2:02pm

<blockquote>I can always write a letter to Rep. Fortenberry, but that

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