Sedona AZ (August 13, 2013) – On Wednesday, August 14th at 3PM Sedona City Council will discuss a newly minted staff proposal. The plan eliminates our citizen commissions on 8/31/13. It introduces an experimental program.
This change affects Sedona’s traditions and priorities:
- Historical Heritage
- Cultural Life and the Arts
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Recreational Options and Parks
Our citizen commissions have had vigilance over our priorities since the city began 24 years ago. Responsibility for these quality of life issues may change hands. It’s proposed that Sedona’s democratic process will be managed in a dramatically different and experimental way. No other community has tried these programs.
These changes will affect community life, your life, and every citizen should be aware of this discussion. Please come to this meeting, listen and share your point of view.
Past Sedona Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton shares his perspective on the commissions and why they didn’t work. We have here two opposite points of view: the city staff and their ideas on how to make the process of citizen involvement more efficient, and the citizens who populated these commissions who believe citizen involvement trumps government efficiency. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Plan to attend Wednesday’s meeting and you decide.
The title of your article goes to the heart of the matter. The proposal for “citizen engagement” from the city staff places a big filter between the City Council and the citizens of Sedona. Essentially, city staff (lead by a part time “citizen engagement coordinator” reporting to the City Manager) are going to collect ideas from citizens, vet them against city staff workplans, screen and filter them, then present them once a year to council with their recommendations for the ones that have merit. The council would then vote up or down on the citizen ideas that staff wants to do anyway. There will not be any other official conduit for council to receive ideas that staff didn’t like in the first place. Never (will be) heard a discouraging word!
Many of our current council members were elected on a platform of listening to the “voice of the people”. Under staff’s new plan, council would be “listening to the voice of the staff, with a few voices that agree with staff included out of staff’s benevolence and at staff’s sole discretion”.
So why is council letting a bunch of unelected folks determine what the citizens really want? Democracy was intended to be messy with lots of debate. And we have politics because people have different ideas about what is important in their community. It’s not efficient, but it eventually works. Every time we have an unaccountable elite make decisions for us in the country, it might start out well, but it inevitably results in a divergence between what the people want and what the unaccountable elite wants.
Time to nip this in the bud. Show up at 3 PM today and loudly protest staff’s initiative. And if any council members read this, please tell the staff this is a bad idea and go back to the messy, inefficient process we had before. Otherwise, why do we even need a city government if no one has a voice?
Cliff Hamilton missed the mark. This WAS thrown on the commissions. They did not give their input, nor were they asked their opinion. He also missed the mark with comments regarding people who were not experts in their field. Is he saying that a bunch of city employees ARE the experts. I don’t think so!