New rule is affront to democracy

To the editor,

At the May 1, 2018, City Council meeting, Mayor Marbury announced with “a new mayor in town, there are new procedures we’re implementing tonight.” These procedures significantly impact a citizen’s right to address issues with officials we elected to hear our concerns. Citizens cannot request a consent agenda item be reviewed; only a council member can do so. Citizen comments are limited to three minutes during public participation and hearings. Neither a formal vote nor an explanation preceded these changes. In a less autocratic way, the council could have shared the new rules, provided sound reasoning, taken public input and voted.

In city budget documents, the organizational chart shows the council reporting and accountable to
citizens. Reducing citizen input time by 40 percent and not providing a rationale sends a clear message regarding the council’s relationship to citizens. We did not elect councilors to take away our voice, rather councilors, once elected, have a moral duty to listen to and use citizen input to craft decisions. On some contentious issues, meetings will be long because many citizens need time to share views. Democracy is not just about efficiency; it’s about maximizing citizen participation. Perhaps some councilors should become more efficient in their remarks (three minutes) if long meeting times are so difficult for them.

Maximizing citizen voice is important when critical issues arise. The council, in the past, frequently ignored or minimized citizen input to its detriment: successful citizen referendum to rescind the plastic bag ordinance, rescinding their original decision regarding vacation rentals and marijuana in mixed use neighborhoods, and the failed airport improvement initiative. Garnering public support requires listening and utilization of citizen
input. Listening promotes public trust and cooperation.

As the Washington Post’s masthead reads, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” In Durango, we have gone from daylight to darkness when the City Council limits public input.

– Mike Todt, Durango