The teacher in me has inspired the preparation of some history and civics lessons.
A bit more than a year ago, two events occurred during the October 2017 City Council meetings forcing Salida citizens to confront the outrageous actions of the then seated mayor, some council members, the city attorney as well as several ongoing attacks by a group of disgruntled CAG members.
The details are not easily forgotten. The results however are of major importance and need reminding, especially now. Using the ballot box, our amazing Salida citizens demanded CIVILITY, resulting in a 70% to 30% overwhelming election margin. Grateful and with a huge sigh of relief, I retired to care for my husband, knowing that four newly elected officials were committed to do everything possible to rule with civility.
A year later, the same month, October 2018, another group of citizens appeared at the City Council meeting. In this case the participants criticized the decision to hire our current City Administrator. [Note: Citizens do have the right to criticize council decisions.]
This group of concerned citizens, however, went well beyond their right to criticize. The atmosphere was electric. The accusations and behavior included rumors, uncontrolled anger, distorted information, and shouting down of speakers with opposing views. What appeared to be attempts at humiliating and degrading our city administrator, they demanded that council immediately fire this city employee.
Have we forgotten? Do we really wish to return to the state of incivility — the exact opposite of what 70 percent of our citizens demanded just one year ago? Is this the way Salidan’s welcome a new city employee?
Contrary to the desires of many of these vocal citizens, it is important to note that city employees are not selected by a vote of the people. Government officials, elected to run our city, must choose their City Administrator, not by a popularity contest, but by needed credentials.
A qualified City Administrator must bring considerable experience to the job principally guiding our management team as they accomplish the goals that all citizen wish for Salida. The City Administrator is more important and more valuable than any elected official.
Public criticism of employees is despicable and cruel because they have no avenue of recourse or response. Imagine walking in any of our employee’s shoes, especially those of Drew Nelson these past few weeks.
Demanding that council decisions be overturned is not the prerogative of the citizens. Elected officials in our representative form of government, as a body, make informed decisions, thus minimizing the mistakes frequently made when emotions run amok in public. Dysfunctional meetings only impede the huge amount of work that needs to be completed.
Attorney Tami Tanoue consults for the Colorado Municipal League and CIRSA. Had a strong City Administrator been selected a year ago, that person would have provided Tanoue’s seminar for the newly elected council members.
Tanoue taught me that all council members are obligated to publicly support all decisions made by the majority. As a governing body, council members must unite and uphold each decision, for the greater good of Salida. Negative comments made later are inappropriate and only encourage second guessing by the citizens (woulda/shoulda/coulda). It is a loyalty and an ethics issue. Once a decision has been made, the council must speak in public with one voice. Government becomes dysfunctional without that requirement.
Council members are elected to represent and make decisions on behalf of the citizens. They must never make those decisions based on the whims of citizens who speak loudest or with the greatest emotion. Council members must always focus on what is best for the government as a whole, using information that is often not available to the public.
When selecting employees, most of that work is accomplished in executive session, to preserve the privacy of the individuals involved. Government entities require confidentiality related to all personnel matters.
I respect those citizens who have difficulty accepting our City Council’s decision. I also believe that the mayor and council members have given them more than adequate opportunities to share their concerns.
My recommendation to our seated council is to circle your wagons around our City Administrator and get to work. Focus on governance: policy-setting, the “big picture” and forward looking. Many goals and tasks were improperly completed and/or ignored during 2016 & 2017. There’s a lot to do without these distractions taking any more of your precious time.
Please, concerned citizens, respect and support Salida’s council members and our city employees.