Open Government Ordinance

The Fort Wayne City Council

Tonight’s City Council meeting became, well, uh, let’s just say there was some disagreement over the language of G-08-03-25.  This was an ordinance introduced by Councilman Mitch Harper which would have amended City Code to require City governmental agencies to post public notice of meetings on the internet as well as the other requirements set forth by Indiana Code.  I won’t go into the specifics of the language, contention or even the arguments presented as I’m sure other bloggers will cover it extensively. 

What I will say is that Councilman Timothy Pape was out of line this evening.  At one point, Karen Goldner asked about the appropriateness of allowing citizens to comment on the ordinance, since citizens were involved in bringing this matter to council.  (It was Pape’s decision as he was the Committee Chair reading the bill.)  During Councilwoman Goldner’s verbal request, Pape was engaged with Council Attorney Joseph Bonahoom.  Pape, obviously distracted, angrily asked if there was anyone who wanted to speak on the ordinance.  One of the gentlemen who approached did not want to speak on the ordinance.  Pape was within his right to cut the man off, however, his belligerent tone and the lack of respect he showed for a citizen was totally unacceptable.  He went on to ask if anyone else wanted to speak, but his tone and evident anger would have kept all but the most impervious among us from approaching that table.  If he was was truly distracted, or if it was a matter of personal animosities between council members, then ask for a time-out – DO NOT take it out on citizens. 

For the record, all of the council members were supportive of the ordinance.  Some, however, were concerned about the language and wanted to get it right the first time.

The reasons for this movement toward a more open government is what’s happened nationally over the past 7-8 years, not to mention most local citizen’s perceptions of how Harrison Square developed.  It is this impetus that has given rise to this movement.  For too long, citizens have felt we have no say in government.  For too long, citizens have felt we have no right to ask questions, request documents or make comments.  Councilman Pape’s conduct tonight was a prime example of why citizens fear their government, do not have a use for it and don’t protest or ask questions.  I feel an apology is owed to all by Pape.

PS – I’m a firm believer in the adage, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, why would you type it in a blog?  I wanted to say something during the open mic portion of the meeting tonight, however, by the time I worked up my courage and started to get out of the seat, it was closed.  I feel comfortable typing this here because I would have said it live and in technicolor to said councilman.  Ha!

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