I was dismayed to read in last week’s paper that the mayor has decided not to take public comment at work sessions. I think this is the wrong approach, and sends the wrong message. Steve said that he wants to avoid quasi public hearings at work sessions, but in the last four years we served on council together that never happened. He also said that it is the only time for the five council members to meet together on policy issues, and that’s just not true. Work sessions are meetings about a variety of topics, from everyday items and project discussions to information sharing and public outreach. It comes down to meeting management — don’t outright ban the public from participating.
Steve has said that people may send an email prior to any meeting to convey their thoughts and then he may refer to it in the meeting, or grant a request to speak at the meeting. He is also advocating for more meetings that the public can attend and have their comments, perhaps, heard then.
My objections are simple. I see this as a stiff-arm to the public, separating us from our government. Now we hear that it will be a pick-and-choose process for anyone that shows up to speak. As for more public outreach meetings, that will surely cost every project more money and cause staff more work on longer processes to represent the public.
This is a bad first step for Aspen’s city hall, and on a slippery slope. I think Aspenites want to know that they are welcome in city hall, and there is an open and inclusive leadership. The mayor should retract this new policy, and appreciate our greatest asset, the people.