City Council must listen to the public

By Heather Talbot of Taking Notice, Acting Together!

I was one of three members of the public who attempted to raise concerns about the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) at the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee meeting on Thursday. However, instead of hearing us when we clearly and repeatedly stated that the CIP…

  • does not reflect our priorities
  • does not account for a global pandemic or nationwide demand to remake how we do public safety
  • grossly overspends on nonessential improvements

…the members of the Finance and Personnel Committee and other elected/appointed officials brushed us off by…

  • not replying to any of the questions from the public during the public hearing. They, in fact, remained silent in the face of questioning and only after closing public hearing (preventing dialogue) did they “respond to” (not answer) the questions asked of them.
  • spoke repeatedly with great condescension as though we do not know the difference between a capital improvement budget and a yearly operating budget. I am a member of the newly formed group Taking, Notice Acting Together, and I  can promise you that we know the difference between capital and operating budgets, and we’re going to change both of them.
  • The committee members also congratulated themselves on opportunities for public input that do not exist. There is no real power in being allowed to speak but not being heard. It is a bare minimum effort to allow the public to attend your meetings or email you. What about responding to public input? What about seeking it out? What about involving stakeholders beyond those involved with big money?

Here’s the thing: it was painfully evident that all of the real decisions of that committee had already been decided on prior to the meeting. By culture and design, there was a 0% chance of anyone on the committee introducing a new amendment or resolution last night. All the conversations between the committee members about their questions or concerns with the 2021-2025 CIP happened without us, folks.

They alluded to phone calls and meetings we weren’t privy to. Motions to approve everything on the agenda were a given. And votes were already secured before we entered the room. The council may pass the 2021-2025 CIP at their meeting next Thursday, but I’ll be damned if we let them do it in the usual style of no discussion and unanimous approval. At the very least, we will make sure our voices are heard, and our questions answered.

Click here for more on Thursday’s meeting. More information on Taking Notice, Acting Together! here. Email questions or corrections to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com.

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