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Mayor owes it to Danville to ‘Hear the Public’

By ELAINE WILSON-REDDY

Contributing columnist

The Danville City Commission held its annual planning retreat last week. The retreat was open to the public, including the press. Thankfully, Advocate-Messenger reporter Bobbie Curd was on-hand to relay the disdain with which the “mayor” holds his constituents.

In Danville’s form of city government, the day-to-day business is handled by our city manager, Ron Scott. The “mayor” is actually the head city commissioner, for lack of a better description. The position is elected every four years as opposed to the other commission seats, which are open every two years. The “mayor” presides over city commission meetings, signs documents, and is the de facto figurehead for city government. That position could just as well be Lead City Commissioner or Commission Chair.

The title of “mayor” has been problematic for several years. Recent “mayors” have tried to use that position to put forth obvious personal agendas. The current “mayor” just seems to enjoy wearing the crown as long as the peasants don’t disrupt his “mayoring”.

The city commission meetings currently have two “Hear the Public” sessions at every regularly scheduled meeting. Danville is the only community in the state that does this. The first Hear the Public is an opportunity for citizens to speak on a published agenda item. The established time limit for comments is three minutes per speaker. The second Hear the Public is open for citizens to speak on community-related concerns. The time limit is also three minutes.

The “mayor” wants to do away with the second Hear the Public because he can’t respond to the citizens who comment.

“While many times those open comments are productive, there are far too many times the commission has to sit up there and take a shellacking from a citizen that puts forth some statement without merit or basis,” Perros said. “And I personally find that offensive.” (A-M, Dec. 13, 2018)

This is the same “mayor” that advocated for a pay raise for the commission, including himself. His reasoning was to put the commission pay close to the same as the county magistrates. This alone is reason enough for him to silently sit through the second Hear the Public. He is making more money, taking more of our tax dollars for the privilege of being “mayor.” He owes us that time.

Additionally, being a public servant means you take the good and the not-so-good. It means you sit quietly and respectfully while the person who pays your salary explains why they are not pleased with your work.

A direct quote on this subject from the “mayor:” “… and I’m not there to take a shellacking.”

Well, yes. You are. It’s like a marriage. You are there for better and for worse. It’s in the contract.

The other commissioners were much more supportive of those who speak at the second session. J.H. Atkins stated that the commission was, indeed, there to take that shellacking. He stated that the commissioners don’t hesitate to give their opinions in meetings and feels the commission owes that time to hear from concerned citizens.

The “mayor” is in favor of having an occasional town hall as a replacement for the second Hear the Public session. This would allow him to defend city commission decisions, but more likely, it would allow him to have some control over the messaging.

Control is the kryptonite for many politicians. It often comes across in a petulant, passive-aggressive manner. Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Matt Bevin all have this issue. Bevin just wasted over $100,000 in taxpayer money because he’s mad at the Kentucky Supreme Court. The “mayor” wants to control what is said in the second Hear the Public because he doesn’t want to take a shellacking.”

The “mayor” ran unopposed for his second term. He owes us, the taxpaying citizens of Danville, his time and his respect for this privilege. If presiding over the second session is too much for him, maybe Mayor Pro Tem Atkins could preside. We can put some crayons at the dais to keep the “mayor” busy and distracted so his feeling won’t get hurt.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” — Henry IX, Shakespeare

G. Elaine Wilson-Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.