I could not believe what I was hearing when I reviewed the latest Council Meeting video. Had the Mayor actually announced the governing body was limiting the ability of residents to openly question their leadership? I understand that Mayor James was attempting to minimize the amount of vitriol and personal attacks targeted at members of our municipal government but I wholly disagree with his method.
I appreciate the difficulty of our elected officials’ positions and would always expect our residents to show respect, dignity and a lack of vulgarity when expressing their opinions and questions publicly, as I have seen how this can hinder others from voicing their differing concerns. That being said, when our Mayor and Council chose to accept the mantle of leadership they also assumed the burdens and responsibilities that elected office holds. Their first and most imperative responsibility is being accountable to our residents.
What I see displayed at our council meetings is not just politics, it is people’s lives. It is our City, our neighborhoods and our quality of life and yes, tempers may flare. Most importantly, it’s the exercising of our responsibility to make sure our government is working for the people in the most responsible, effective and efficient manner possible. We in the public possess the right and the responsibility to question our elected officials, whether we agree with their decisions, political affiliations and principles or not. Our job as responsible citizens does not end because we elected our officials to represent us; instead it mandates us to reinforce our decision to do so.
I find it ironic that during his 2006 campaign, Mayoral Candidate Bill James railed against the previous administration's decision to suspend channel 19's recording of Council Meetings and limited the access of information to the Gloucester City News. In a pre-election press release, dated October 30th of 2006, Candidate Bill James wrote: “It’s time to change the way the City government has communicated with you. The Independent team is a proponent of supporting and informing the City News of all major and current developments within the community. We are a strong proponent for more informative use of Channel 19 and for bringing Council meetings back to Channel 19 so everyone can see what actions City government is taking in your behalf.”
His commitment then, by calling for transparency, was righteously justified. However, by changing the manner in which citizens and taxpayers can question our current leadership at the rail, Mayor James’ decision is more egregious than the past administration’s transparency and now borders on a lack of accountability. I trust Mayor James and our City Council members will reflect upon their decision and chose to return the open public comment portion of the monthly Council Meeting to its previous format. Doing so almost guarantees you more scrutiny but it will show your long-held campaign commitment to transparency and an open government.
Chairman of the Gloucester City GOP