The Gladstone City Commission Meeting held on June 26th, 2017 brought up a lot of great questions and showed an air of concern and collaboration on pressing problems. While I was not fortunate to attend the entire event I was able to see where an important spirit of collaboration was taking fold where logic seemed to win out over process.
Lets first discuss trucks. The cost of new dump trucks is a whopping $214,000 dollars!!! For a small town of Gladstone that is huge! There was much debate and discussion over how to reduce that amount such as retrofitting the back of the truck and selling the old truck. Considerations over where the money would come from was also important with the use of 100K in the fund and whether that should be used.
As long as all the options were thoroughly explored fiscal responsibilities were achieved.
City leaders don't often work together on issues but here they were willing to engage in productive conversation. Ideas were floated around about alternatives to buying a truck and options on how to save money. It seemed that all parties were interested in finding a frugal resolution. Some "digging" into alternatives is expected with a later report to commissioners.
The second large topic worth discussing was the issue of landlords being stuck with renters utility bills. Confusion over notifications and language within theses notices came forward with some landlords feeling that they were not being notified until their is a threat of it being put on their taxes. The end result was the willingness to look deeper into the issue and ensure website information and regulations are clear and concise.
Using theory, conversation analysis (CA), and critical discourse analysis (CDA) it is possible to determine the conversation style of the meeting and whether or not it is meeting public need (Farkas, 2013). Where some cities have designed processes that limit open conversation it doesn't seem that Gladstone has that problem. Attendance may be an issue but overall discussion and openness is not as the public seems to freely engage in the discussion.
Public comment is welcome but does need to be controlled to ensure it doesn't uselessly rattle on. New information in the meeting may arise in response to a question proposed by a member of the public. There should be an opportunity, when feasible, to continue to respond to the new information or propose another question. Time seems to make this difficult as conversations can't continue on for a hours as meetings need a prompt start and end on time. Offering opportunities to do this could help the public feel the issue has adequate input. A difficult balance to maintain.
Farkas, (2013). Power and access in the public hearings of city council meetings. Discourse & Society, 24 (4).