Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Should Hall Question the Security Concerns of Fellow Council Members?

Last night, some members of the Pensacola City Council talked about wanting to increase the amount of security at their meetings.

Sam Hall has a problem with this. In a blog posted today, Hall facetiously asked readers; “What comes next?” “Do we issue flak jackets to City employees to wear to and from their cars?”

Hall also thinks the Council should worry about the security concerns of other city employees. “Are City Hall employees more deserving than library employees?”

Hall’s post that borders on mockery makes it seem like the members are utterly insane for even talking about the issue.

Apparently, Hall didn’t hear about last month’s City Council shooting that took place in a suburb of St. Louis. I guess he also didn’t hear that other cities in America are already beefing-up security at council meetings.

City Council events are a meeting place of ideas and this environment can sometimes breed conflict. It’s not preposterous to think that someone would try to settle these conflicts with violence. This escalation of violence doesn’t take place in a public library.

Mr. Hall – I love your blog and respect that you’re willing to put yourself out there by posting on it, but I think you should reconsider your stance on this issue.


Sam Hall said...

Chris: I'm all for keeping the public safe, but our response to security concerns should be measured reasonably and balanced with access to the civic process. City residents already feel somewhat alienated.

Indeed, some days I spend more time talking on the phone with residents from other districts than my own because they claim their Council representative will not answer the phone, return phone messages, or respond to e-mail.

Moreover, I just don't want to create another barrier to government when there are thousands of governmental bodies in America that will never ever be threatened.

Jefferson County, KY (Louisville) in the early 1980s had more than 250 local governments in its borders (Big "city", county, water districts, school districts, sewer districts, park districts, library districts, .......). And I have to tell you some of the most emotional meetings come from those smaller governments who use eminent domain more than the larger ones. Should each of those meeting places have the same security?

Perhaps. But I hope it's not a distraction from improving a great city that is facing dropping below 53,000 by 2010.

Chris Olson said...

Sam – Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. I just wanted to individually respond to your two points.

1. “I'm all for keeping the public safe, but our response to security concerns should be measured reasonably and balanced with access to the civic process.”

I agree with you 100%. Ramping up security at council meetings sets a bad precedence for Pensacola. How can our citizens have an open and honest discussion when politicians fear their constituents?

I knew this is what you were trying to get at when you wrote your post, but you didn’t explicitly say it. I’m going to write a separate post about this point.

2. “Should each of those meeting places have the same security?”

I’m kind of confused by this point. If you don’t think we should ramp up security at the City Council meetings, why are you advocating for extra security at other city meetings?

Nevertheless, I’d still like to talk about your point. I don’t know if all city meeting places need their own security. I guess I would need to do a little digging and look into the amount of violent incidences at all local government meetings across the county. If we see that the amount of violence at these meetings is the same, then maybe we do need security at all city meetings.

Maybe we’ll see that the Missouri City Council shooting was just a random incident and this type of shooting doesn’t really happen that often. If this is the case, it would be silly to pay for extra security at Pensacola City Council meetings.