Last night I attended my first City Council meeting.
Well, I sure can pick ’em.
My intent in attending was to see things first hand, and to learn a bit more about the process and the players in our city government.
People talk about “the government” does this and “the government” does that. I recently realized that as long as I subscribe to that paradigm, without considering the individuals who are participating in those actions – the folks who commit time and energy to the structure we sometimes take for granted – that I’m limiting my views on the issues, and am therefore limiting myself. So off to City Hall I went.
As part of my introduction to this arena, someone welcomed me to “the sausage factory.” I had to look that one up. I’ll share it with you, in case you’re as confused as I was:
“There are two things you don’t want to see being made—sausage and legislation.” Attributed to Otto von Bismark (1815-1898), Chancellor of Germany
I’ll take Otto’s word for it on the sausage, but I rather enjoyed last night’s Council meeting.
Of course, perhaps the crowd of Public Art supporters and their passionate statements made it more entertaining than the meetings usually are.
Many citizens addressed the council, sharing their experience and background in Scottsdale’s award-winning Public Art arena, as well as their opinions, wishes, and requests for action from the council.
If you couldn’t attend in person, didn’t watch the meeting streaming live online or on CityCable11, and you haven’t yet had a chance to view the recording provided on the City of Scottsdale web site, I’ve posted some highlights below.
The first person to the podium was Bill Banchs, CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council, He assured us that the SCC’s commitment to Scottsdale’s Public Art Program is equal to their commitment to the other entities they manage, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Center for the Performing Arts.
Former Councilperson Betty Drake provided a summary of events related to the Cultural Council, which helped newbies like myself understand the “strife” terminology used on last night’s Meeting Agenda.
Artist David Therrian missed the opening of the meeting – he had just arrived in town, reporting that he drove from Los Angeles in order to address the Council. Therrian was direct in his opinion of Banchs.
From what I understand, he [Banchs] is attempting to destroy the [Public Art] program. He says he likes it. What he seems to like the most is the budget that it brings.
Bob Frost, retired City middle manager who is currently serving as Scottsdale’s Poet Laureate, opened his comments with the question,
“Why did I stick my nose under this tent?”
And eloquently went on to tell us in a sincere and entertaining manner why he did just that. Frost outlined three options that he sees are currently on the table to work through the current strife, acknowledging that that’s what any option will require: work.
The last commenter of the evening was our very own John Washington. In his usual direct manner, John pointed out that he brought these same concerns to the Council eighteen months ago, at which time his concerns were brushed aside. He also inquired about the financial performance and audit issues going on at the Cultural Council, and when we might receive more information about them. Stay tuned on that one.
I’m very glad I attended this particular Council meeting. There were several more members of the public who spoke, personalizing this issue as they listed their experience and years of volunteer service in the Public Art arena. The main theme I took from all of the speakers was their support for the staff at SPA, and the tremendous work they do.
It’s not likely that I’ll become a Council Meeting groupie, but the offer is always open: if you’re interested in visiting the sausage factory for the first time, just let me or John know and we’ll be sure to attend with you. We’ll even save you a seat!