Last week I complained about the ghosts of councils past visiting the new city council. Specifically, the re-appearance of voting for programs for special interests (i.e., people and businesses who gave money to council members’ re-election committees), distorting the truth, and poor decision making concerned me. But there was one thing at the new council meeting that did impress me and it deserves as much attention as those old nasty ghosts.
In his long explanation of why he was voting not to repeal the ban on sex offenders in parks, new Council member Adam Nick talked about the informal survey he took. He claimed to have asked nearly 300 people what their opinion was about the ban, and the vast majority of them were in favor of the ban. Nick explained that with so many people of the same mind, his role as a representative of the people prompted him to vote to keep the ban.
Here is a council member who
a. Thinks he’s a representative of the people
b. Actually goes out of his way to ask people what they think
c. Tries to vote as a representative of the people
All I can say is – Three Cheers for Mr. Nick
What a refreshing change from the old Imperial council, a council who did whatever THEY wanted to do, regardless of public opinion, which they almost never bothered to assess, and on those few occasions in which the public gave their unsolicited opinion, the Council managed to ignore it and sometimes to do exactly the opposite of what people were asking them to do.
Of course public opinion should not be the only factor in decision making. Often the public does not have all the facts. Often the public can be swayed by ephemeral issues. The best government is a government where intelligent leaders gather facts, engage the public, and make good long term decisions. Public opinion is only one factor, BUT it is a factor, and how memorable it was to find it played so important a role in Nick’s decision making process.
(Note to Adam Nick: you’re on the right track, but I’m not sure that your personal polling efforts are what most people would consider a valid measure of public opinion. Let me suggest you work with the staff and create a public opinion assessment mechanism for the City’s website where major issues can be discussed.
Also, I’m not sure that voting to keep a ban on sex offenders using parks was the right move to make (a) in the light of so many opinions that the ban was unconstitutional, (b) that continuing the ban was going to be very expensive and ultimately fruitless, (c) that to date no one could show any benefits from the year-long ban, (d) the evidence that most sex offenders are not child molesters, and (e) the fact that child abductions from parks are so rare. But, laying aside the wisdom of the decision itself, how refreshing it was to see someone on the council paying attention to public opinion).
Bottom line – Thank you Councilman Nick for showing us that while the council may still be haunted by the nasty ghosts of councils past, there is some new blood flowing through the City’s veins.