Rantz: Voter delivers devastating takedown of Seattle Council’s disinterest in listening to the public
Public comment periods at any council meeting tend to be a mixed bag of professional activists and mentally unstable people showing up to yell.
But every once and awhile you get someone who hopes to earnestly discuss an issue that’s important to them and others. When that person comes, you expect a council to at least put down their phones for 120 seconds and show some modicum of respect, even if the person shows up frequently.
Unless, of course, you’re an elitist on the Seattle City Council that doesn’t care what you say or think.
In a video spreading on Facebook, a man is shown at a March 11 public comment period to discuss the state of our Democracy, but he didn’t get a chance to make his comments.
He was instantly ignored by a disinterested council. That disturbed him.
The man asked the council to actually look at him while he was speaking. Instead of paying attention, Councilwoman Debora Juarez scolds the man for wasting his 120 seconds while others, like Kshama Sawant and Lorena Gonzalez were swiping and typing on their cell phones, not caring what the man had to say. He’s not a professional activist bussed in to back some union-driven agenda; he’s not a donor to a campaign. He is just a Seattle voter and, in this city, these voices don’t matter.
“It’s real discouraging to come up here and see all the heads down, it’s like…,” the man said before being interrupted by Juarez telling him “…you’re on a two minute timer here, so let’s go.” For a moment, Councilmember Mike O’Brien looked up from his phone.
The man stood silent for several seconds, aghast by this treatment. He had no intention of yelling or causing a scene. He just wanted to feel listened to by a council known for pushing fringe policies without seeking input from the community they pretend to represent.
“So it was unreasonable for me to ask that people look up and give me their attention?” the man asked. It was met with a reminder from Juarez that that he only had a minute and 30 seconds left.
The man then folded his prepared statement. He paused briefly before delivering a cogent and brutal takedown of this current council. He pointed to the underlying elitism. When Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle) spoke last week, he said she was given several minutes and garnered the attention of the council. Everyone else? They were limited to one minute presentations.
“It reminded me of George Orwell’s famous scene from ‘Animal Farm’ about how all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others and that’s how I feel like I’m being treated now, just because I was kind of asking for your attention, like I noticed you all very attentive to Ms. Jaypal last week. And I immediately got a hostile response back from you. I don’t understand that.”
The council stayed silent. That prompted him to ask if they ever responded to constituents and again Juarez reminded him of his time limit.
At this point, despite begging for their attention, Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Sawant return to their phones. Gonzalez rests her head on her hand, waiting for him to shut up.
“Well, it’s all on tape and I think it’s a pretty sad commentary that you think that asking for you guys to look up off of your computers and give attention during the short period of time was an unreasonable thing,” the man said. “I really feel bad about that.”
He shouldn’t feel bad. He should feel empowered to work harder to boot the incumbents out of office and vote in council members who don’t just want to hear from the public, but actually listen to them.
This is a council that, in-between calling cops racists murderers, won’t let them do their jobs to tackle criminals stealing from taxpayers to feed a drug addiction. This is a council that passed a job-killing head tax despite it being deeply unpopular, only to then walk it back, begrudgingly, under this belligerent complaint that the public was persuaded into their position because of big business propaganda.
This is a council that only listens to you when you force them to. And even then, as this man found out, it doesn’t always work.
This behavior is shameful. But it’s what we’ve come to expect from this activist council. We deserve so much better.
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