Have we seen the last of civility? I certainly hope not, but lately I am not quite sure. Based on the level of courtesy and respect shown at a Sacramento City Council meeting, one would be taken aback at best, and appalled at worst.
Every City Council meeting includes public comment on items not on the agenda. During this public comment period, speaker after speaker exercises the First Amendment right to free speech, with the typical speaker providing comments and criticisms, often emotional.
Recently, City Council has become subject to verbal abuse of the mayor and councilmembers, with speakers ignoring time limits, and dropping F-bombs right and left, to the point where folks have been asked to leave the chambers (and sometimes carried out), and where the council meeting has been shut down and adjourned.
These activities have intensified since the deaths of Stephon Clark and Joseph Mann, although the rants are not always about the shootings.
I understand that people are angry and frustrated with the tragic incidents that have occurred, that the investigations have taken significant time, and that many feel City Council and city government in general simply don’t care.
If the point is disruption, then the demonstrations have been successful. However, if the goal is to collectively and collaboratively create a better city, where all are treated respectfully, then we are all failing.
I am afraid that what is happening at City Council meetings will only cause greater divisiveness and isolate those we most need to support. It is our responsibility to listen to our constituents, understand their struggles, and take actions to improve their chances of success in life.
This will require knowing each other’s stories and understanding the hurdles and barriers that our neighbors face.
The council chambers and meetings, by their very nature – with councilmembers sitting high on a dais, two-minute time limits for public speakers, and all of this televised live – are not the best venue for these important discussions.
I have proposed, and I hope my fellow councilmembers and I will be successful in convening, a series of town hall discussions where we can come together as a community to talk about what needs to happen to best support our future and the future of our children.
Just as the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association sent a letter to City Council about the shooting of Stephon Clark, I hope our neighborhood will get involved in these important discussions. Once town hall meetings are scheduled, we will get the message out on social media and other outlets. I look forward to listening to your stories and thoughts.