Sixth District council member and council president Jeff Gahan is in a pickle, and it comes from not thinking things through to their logical conclusion. His heart and democratic bona fides are in the right place, but he's set himself up for a fall, if word on the street (and in The Tribune) is to be believed.
As a matter of parliamentary procedure, Mr. Gahan is going to have a tough time suppressing public comment at tonight's council meeting (Aug. 1, 7:30, Third Floor Assembly Room). Ironically, Gahan doesn't want to suppress any comments. In fact, he has tried to organize a topic-specific forum where the public can have the UNDIVIDED attention of council. Not everyone is happy about that.
Since the council will not be conducting any official business with respect to the restructuring of the city's sanitation operations, it might be possible for him to skate through without being called too many vile names, but only if the citizens are in a mood to be reasonable. Based on the reasoned tone in Sunday's op-ed by the president of the local AFSCME union, there might just be an opportunity for the public to be heard AND for the council to conduct business.
I'm sure some of the "communications from the public" will have to do with matters pending before the council Monday night. Those who will have come to address the sanitation workers plight would have to trust in the good faith of Gahan and the rest of the council.
Suppose Gahan announces the following: "I know there are many of you here tonight who wish to speak to council about the situation with the sanitation department. I'd like to ask for your indulgence in how we do business tonight... The council has no matters pending on the agenda which are germane to that situation, but does have business to conduct. As council president, I do not want to muzzle anyone. I have reserved the use of this room on Wednesday night so that anyone who wishes to make his or her facts or feelings known about the mayor's restructuring can have not only the time, but our undivided attention. Council, I'd like to propose that we proceed with communications from the public, but request that those who wish to speak about the sanitation situation allow those addressing other issues to go first. Then, to a time certain, say 8:30, we would allow anyone who has signed up to address the council about the sanitation situation. At 8:30, I would entertain a motion to suspend the agenda, which requires a 2/3 vote, and is debatable, and move on with our business. At the time for adjournment, I would entertain a motion to resume communications from the public... Do I hear a motion to do that?"
Properly, the council can entertain anyone who simply must make their voice heard on Monday night, and then should "adjourn to a time certain (Wednesday, 7:30) to take up remaining matters (i.e., communications from the public). That way, the impatient public will have at least some chance to speak to the issue on Monday, and the rest can speak on Wednesday. That makes it official (instead of appearing to be a campaign event), and Mr. Gahan can, if he chooses, permit the Wednesday forum to operate on a less formal basis.