Meetings Must Be Open

Editor, News-Register:

Unanimous!

To this casual observer, and based on news stories and not actual attendance, it seems that City Council votes are almost always UNANIMOUS. When I have attended a council meeting, which is rare, I’ve noted little or no discussion on the matters to be voted on. Doesn’t any Council member have any questions? Open discussion/debate on matters effecting the future of the city certainly merits a couple minutes of debate in front of the public.

I’ve watched a few videos of recent council meetings and find the majority of the time speaking was done by his honor the mayor, or his sidekick

the vice mayor. Little, and in most cases, no debate/discussion is offered on an issue to be voted on.

Something to ponder: There used to be a sign above the seats of council in the old council chamber, and it read something like: “Let the voices of the people be heard and acted upon.”

Whatever happened to that signage? I noticed it’s no longer displayed in the new council chamber. I guess it doesn’t really matter, since rarely does council ever truly listen to a citizen, ask them questions, or even answer any of their questions.

Not for the first time, I’ve heard people say it’s a waste of their time to go before council, it’s an effort in futility, what’s the use, they don’t pay attention.

My experience has been a polite tolerance when I addressed city council, no questions asked or comments made by any member of council, and then a vote was taken with a UNANIMOUS decision to move forward as they originally planned. This happened when I spoke before the current council (Alecto MOU approval) and before the past council (East Whg. Sports Complex).

The way I see it, it makes no sense to have city council meetings open to the public, since the citizens, although permitted to speak, have little if any impact on the outcome (vote) on the matter, since, in my opinion, it has already been determined in private (secret) meetings. These private meetings are in violation of the WV Sunshine Law, which states: “When a quorum of a governing body discusses issues of interest upon which the governing body expects to take some official action, then this is a meeting. If this discussion takes place outside the confines of a public meeting — whether in person, by telephone, email or other telecommunication means — it is an illegal meeting.”

These private meetings avoid surprises when issues are voted upon. It seems that unanimity and consensus are highly valued by the mayor and council, regardless of any input or comments offered by the public.

In closing, just noted in today’s (Monday) newspaper’s online poll result that a majority of people employed in Wheeling will look for other job opportunities outside of the city of Wheeling if the $2 user fee is passed.

If accurate, and those individuals follow through, how might that impact the operations or ability of a small business to remain competitive, or even stay in business?

Hope springs eternal!

J. Jacobs

Wheeling

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