It's an open question, the title of this blog post. But this is something people have been talking about for a long time here in Salem, Oregon, because it sure seems like important policy decisions often are voted on with very little discussion or debate between councilors at City Council meetings.
Today I emailed the message below to Kacey Duncan, the Acting City Manager, and other city officials. After last Monday's city council meeting, I figured it was time to ask some pertinent questions that revolve around whether the City of Salem is complying with Oregon's public meeting law.
The way I argue it in my message, there are only two basic possibilities.
Either (1) Votes on issues such as whether to allow or ban early sales of recreational marijuana aren't predetermined in advance of City Council meetings, in which case citizens have good reason to weigh in via emails, letters, phone calls, and public testimony about upcoming votes, or (2) Votes are predetermined and City officials are violating the public meeting law.
As I say in the message, if (1) is true then Councilors Brad Nanke and Jim Lewis owe me an apology when they said at last Monday's meeting that I spread "misinformation" and "paranoia" by altering people to the possibility of the council imposing a ban on early sales.
Actually, as I said in the public comment period, this is democracy in action -- citizens expressing their opinions to elected officials about an issue that means a lot to them. I woke up today feeling that I couldn't let Nanke and Lewis get away with their anti-public participation remarks.
Here's what I sent to City officials. I'll let you know what sort of response I get.
Mr. Duncan, as Acting City Manager I’ve got some questions for you about issues I raised during my testimony at the August 31 City Council meeting, and raised again in the email I sent to you and other City officials after the meeting.