Wednesday’s Workshop

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Posting on behalf of Kim Rosenberg.
Wednesday’s Workshop
Eighty people showed up at the Council Workshop on Wednesday. I was excited. I felt like this could be a great time for a public conversation about something that’s been eating at people for too long. Of course, it was going to be difficult. It’s always difficult when we talk about a thing we don’t agree on but that’s how people come to consensus and that’s how democracy is supposed to work. All of us saying our piece and working things out together.
That opportunity was shut down Wednesday afternoon.
It doesn’t matter to me if you showed up at the workshop and wanted to speak about turning the whole city into an AirBnB village or you wanted to speak about building a gate on Laneda with a guard tower to keep the yahoos out, or you think everything is fine as it is or you think everything is on fire. I say, bring it all. Slap it down on the table and let’s take a look at the whole deal. Democracy is loud and messy but that’s okay. Maybe none of us get our way exactly but we get a little closer to some spot in the middle.
I’ve heard from a lot of people that it wasn’t just me raising my hand like Arnold Horschak in the back of the class. Many people had their hands raised but only three people were asked to speak; a man with an LLC who spoke of private property rights, a woman from the STR Oversight Group who asked about the reason the special workshop was called and a resident with a question about how many actual vacation rentals are in the Commercial and R4 zones in addition to the ones in neighborhoods.
With forty minutes still on the clock and hands raised, the Mayor shut the meeting down early.
Councilmember Nuttall asked the City Manager to put up an email address for comments so everyone can comment. A nice gesture, but puhleez. If they won’t listen, why would I think they’ll read?
That was a bone thrown to the dog under the table. We had forty minutes on the clock for more short comments or questions. People wanted to speak but who wanted to listen?
If you planned your day to show up like I did for the Workshop but couldn’t stay for the regular meeting, it felt like a waste of time.
The composition of the future STR committee was the thing that blew up on CHAT during the February meeting and the workshop on Wednesday was the result. The thing many of us wanted to understand and comment on wasn’t addressed during the workshop. No one could ask the question many of us wanted answered because we weren’t called on.
And speaking of CHAT, the CHAT feature was disabled at both the workshop and the meeting. Evidently, it’s distracting for the Council.
Here’s what I find distracting:
• A Mayor and Council that couldn’t be bothered to listen to 40 additional minutes of comments and questions from the people who took time out of their day and arranged their lives to show up.
• A committee formed to deal with livability with only one resident and no discussion of the composition of that committee during the workshop.
• Technology disabled that allows people to see who from the community is attending, who has raised a hand, who has been chosen to speak and provides a public forum for questions and comments during a meeting.
• A public meeting seemingly engineered to remove the public from the meeting.
Wednesday, March 9th’s 3 pm Council Workshop could have been a real community conversation about the future of short-term rentals with questions and comments from people who aren’t normally heard from but the Mayor shut it down. The CHAT feature, when used to clarify topics and ask questions during a meeting, allows for greater transparency. But it doesn’t look like transparency or inclusion or public comment was ever the point. Had it not been for the CHAT feature at the February Meeting, I wonder if there would’ve been a two-hour workshop about a hot topic like short-term rentals at all?
Democracy dies this way. Public discourse shut down. Nobody listening. Everybody mad as hell.
To comment:
Kim Rosenberg.