Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The End of Closed-Door Paternalism

The rewrite of the ordinance has happened far too much behind closed doors – closed sessions with City Council, P&Z, and the Task Force and months behind the scenes with lawyers and consultants.
Why is this?
It could be that those on the other side of the curtain do not have the citizens’ best interests at heart.
But I have heard from our elected leaders who get to sit on the inside that the opposite is the case. They have to convene in closed sessions, they say, precisely because it is the best way to protect the citizens. To openly discuss provisions in the ordinance is to make it vulnerable to challenge by the industry. To explain is to provide ammunition for those who want to make the ordinance weaker.
This is what I call closed-door paternalism. There’s just one problem with it: we already have a weak ordinance! The very process that is supposed to be protecting our interests is undermining them.
The reason for this is simple. The closed-door process magnifies the power of the lawyers and bureaucrats. They get a privileged position to consistently drum their message into our elected leaders’ ears. And their message is one of hyper-caution: “We can’t do this. We can’t do that. Preemption. Vested Rights. Regulatory Takings.” The tape plays on repeat over and over. And we, the citizens, are cut out of the loop. We can’t hit the ‘stop’ button to question that message and to interject the voices of other experts who have alternative messages.
And before we know it, our elected leaders’ worldviews are indelibly stamped and they confuse the hyper-cautious message with reality. Then we, who speak of other ways of seeing the world, start to sound simply crazy – out of touch with reality. Closed-door paternalism sets us up to look like children.
At the last City Council meeting (start at 44:26), they toyed with the idea of waiving their attorney-client privilege and releasing legal documents. And they got this far only because we have been so adamant in asking our childish questions: Why? Why? Why? Why are we not increasing set-backs? Why are we not prohibiting pits? On and on.
Those documents explain why we have the draft ordinance we have. They also explain the worldview that is shaping how our representatives see reality. We need to see them. But they dismissed the idea of sharing them. Too dangerous…for us, of course.
It is time to call an end to closed-door paternalism. The children are grown up and shall write their own ordinance.  

1 comment:

  1. Burgess said: You are charming and delightful and shared a delightful cup of coffee with her. That's not condescending at all.

    Watching this video shows how uncomfortable they are with us knowing how the sausage was made.

    Groth missed the DAG issues by 9. That was cute.