The City's Pulse Newsletter
The Heart of the Matter

Now I'm angry.  For the past year and a half, since my first column in March of 2007, I have been pushing for better communication with our local officials.  I've been reporting the cover up of important information and have been demanding more respectful treatment of the public.  But now things have gotten painful.

At the City Council meeting this past Tuesday night, the council displayed intensely  antagonistic behavior toward the public.  It was enough to make you sick, and for one citizen it did, literally.  It was the start of a massive heart attack for a person who stood up to speak out.

Joy Seward had no intention of speaking at the meeting, she was going to leave that job to her husband, Rick, who did, and expressed himself very well.  Then former city councilman Chris Copstead stepped up to the podium.  Chris' remarks in support of the city council and against public concerns were upsetting.  He used negative labels and names to demean those that had testified before the council.  It was too much for Joy to bear.  She stood up, shaking with anger and emotion, and spoke eloquently about treating the public with respect.  She reminded Chris and the council that everyone should have a voice, be treated fairly and be taken seriously.

Then Joy had to sit through the deliberations of the city council, where she heard insults and jabs thrown out by Councilmen Ron Edinger and Mike Kennedy.  She heard the council attack my remarks as they twisted and mocked my words and those of other citizens who had spoken. The council was safe in their sniping because we citizens were not allowed to speak at that point.  Joy and the rest of us in the audience had to sit there and take it, without response.

I had spoken for five minutes at the start of the meeting.  I asked for a public hearing and a vote on the 99 year lease the city was proposing to give the University of Idaho for the Harbor Center Building and land. My remarks were careful, respectful and positive, focusing on the historic power of public involvement in the decision-making process.  You can read my exact words to the council by going to where I have posted my comments.

My plea, and that of several other people, was for the council to delay their decision and hold an open public hearing so we can all learn the details of this important issue before final commitments are made.  At the end of my remarks, I asked the Mayor and Council if they had any questions for me.  I wanted to engage them in conversation on this important topic.  I wanted them to ask me questions about my statement or anything else I have written.  I wanted to discuss the possibility of a hearing and a vote.  No.  They would not talk directly with me, they had no questions.

Why can't we just have an honest public conversation about issues of importance in this city?

Six citizens went on record asking for an open public hearing, but not one single city council member responded to those requests.

The council spoke at length about the value of education.  Then they spoke even more about the importance of higher education.  Then they expounded on the economic impact of the educational process.  They filled the air with the glory of education!

Please stop telling us what we already know and upon which we already agree.  We all love education.  We all want more and better higher education.  We like the U of I,  LCSC,  NIC and all those schools.  Please start telling us about the plans, studies, appraisals and LCDC's commercial real estate deals that you are hiding from us.  That's what we really want to know.

And that's why the council steamrolled their decision through as fast as they could.  They were on a mission.  Public hearing? No way.  Don't mention it.  Let's make the final decision before any of the details come out.

Even councilman Al Hassel was silenced by his own peers.  He wanted to change one word of the contract so that U of I would have to re-negotiate after the first 99 years, not just get the next 99 for free.  He was shut down immediately.  They told him he couldn't change that word because the contract had already been sent to the State Board of Education and was on their Agenda for approval this week.   The council's actions strongly suggest this lease was a "done deal" before the meeting ever started.

Any red-blooded freedom lover would have been upset listening to this sham of a public meeting.  But for Joy it was a turning point.  Her heart could take no more.  She had a heart attack that began at the meeting and she is now in very serious, life-threatening condition at our local hospital.

Joy, we will keep you in our prayers.  I know, after visiting you today, that there's good hope for your recovery.  We need you, Joy!  You understand the value of active citizens and you recognize the need for respectful, open government. 

I wish our local officials knew that as well.