‘No’ to a city gatekeeper to muzzle public voice

Published 3:57 pm Monday, December 17, 2018

The Dec. 14 Advocate Messenger headline, “Danville Mayor Questions Value of Public Comments,” was concerning. The idea of creating a gatekeeper to determine appropriate subject matter regarding citizens comments seems an attempt to thwart public dissent. Especially the suggestion that the gatekeeper should be the city manager.

This concern could’ve been brought to the commission behind closed doors, however choosing this venue ironically is motivated by the mayor’s own words, that once “you’ve already spewed the cancer…it’s already spread.” It also highlights the fallacy of creating a gatekeeper. The question … who holds the moral compass?

When the article addressed Danville’s two opportunities to “hear the public,” it was mentioned that “there’s been too many times where things are said that aren’t true.” Like when the article quoted the mayor and city manager that “Danville is the only community in the state that does this.” Is this a true or false statement?

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The fact is, the City of Frankfort’s “Hear the Public” asks citizens to “try and keep it” to five minutes addressing anything on the agenda. I recently discovered another central Kentucky community has two “Hear the Public” just like Danville, but allows five minutes instead of three, addressing past and current agendas. Both are city-manager forms of government. Doesn’t it come back to opinion, system and who’s doing the defining?

City-manager forms of government were created for efficiency. The fact is the most efficient form of government is a dictatorship provided the dictator is an enlightened despot. However, city managers are kept in check by elected commissions. Doesn’t the suggestion of any gatekeeper show a cancer has already taken hold of the body?

Sure, there’s a risk that the public can get comments wrong, just like city managers and commissioners. However, isn’t this a risk “a government of the people” are to accept? Isn’t the alternative a greater risk?

It is well the city commission provides a “Hear the Public” venue, unlike Boyle’s Fiscal Court, where the outgoing county judge-executive championed a muzzling of the public. However, has this cancerous idea now grown to include city commission?

The city commission isn’t owned by commissioners. It’s owned by the public they serve. If this notion is lost to either entitlement mentality or ignorance, is it time, like Fiscal Court, for the cancer to be removed?

Randy Gip Graham