How to make a public comment at a Council meeting

(In case any of you are interested; if not, perhaps you’d be interested to know that the only time I ever run into Kevin Ksen is when he’s taking photos of various community groups before Council meetings.  It still boggles my mind that he knows who I am.)

Previously, my public commenting has consisted of a wave when I got voted on for Hope Cemetery Commission, and frequent winks to Mike Germain.

So, speaking before the Council was a really big deal for me.  Here’s how to go about preparing for it:

1) Let the Mayor know you’re going to speak.
In this case, I emailed his staff people, and came extra early to the meeting to give them a heads up that I wanted to speak.  JOB let me know that he’d try to get me in as early as possible, because he knows I have kids whom I need to get home to.

2) If you’re going to prepare handouts…
I emailed handouts to the Council the evening before, but I also brought handouts for every Councilor and the Mayor (11 people), plus the City Manager (or, as was the case tonight, the City Solicitor), plus the City Clerk.  So, plan on thirteen handouts plus whatever you’re going to have in front of you.  You can place the handouts on each person’s desk before the meeting.

3) Dress for success.
This is more for the ladies.  Tracy knows I’m a firm believer in pantsuits (in this case, a tweed Harvé Benard I picked up at Goodwill) and scarves (Echo oblong scarf that was brown/tan with magenta paisley).  I do not have enough edge to pull off the Melican-on-Rosen’s-Roundtable look.  (Though, as Jeremy knows, I was wearing my shoes with the holes in them, which I normally try not to wear when it’s raining.  Wear sensible shoes, regardless of gender, preferably without holes!) 

4) Try not to just read a speech.
Towards the beginning of my comments, I had to read off a list because I didn’t want to forget anything.  I think the Councilors tend to prefer if you sound like you’re speaking off the cuff (because then you’re looking at them, not at your notes).  I kind of knew some of the ideas I wanted to get across, so the danger of off-the-cuff is that it flies by and you end up saying “Thank you” and hoping you didn’t sound like a complete idiot.

5) Focus on someone.
I have to confess that I was trying my best not to look at certain councilors (because I can’t look at MikeGermain without grinning like a fool).  You know how they always tell you to focus on one person when you speak to a group?  You should do that.  The Mayor is pretty easy, because he usually tries to look engaged.  This time, though, I kept looking at David Moore because he always looks like he’s trying to get to his happy place during Council meetings.  (And he usually looks like he’s succeeded.)

Anyway, I hope I got some of what I wanted to say across in my comment.  Phil Palmieri wearing a turtleneck instead of a tie kind of threw off my game.

Next time I’m just going to have Germain wink at me at the right points in my speech.

Other stuff you can’t get anywhere else:

  • Jo Hart agrees with me regarding Joff Smith’s height.  There was another lady there who also agreed with us.  I should have asked Kevin his take on Joff’s height.
  • Question from Jo: there’d been some discussion about the city’s membership in the MMA/State House News but wanted to see if anyone was aware of whether there’d been any movement on getting regular citizens access.  Does anyone out there know?
  • I am too shy to introduce myself to Lee Hammel, but not too shy to tell MikeGermain he’s still my favorite, as long as he keeps voting the way I want.
  • I may appear on Coffee with Konnie some time in the future.  My husband says, “It’s because one pantsuit recognized another.  There’s no way she would have asked if you weren’t wearing a pantsuit.”

For those of you following along at home…

I’m going to be making a short (though everyone knows me — the mayor’s going to have to cut me off!) public comment on items 11d, 11e, and 11h on tonight’s Council agenda.

Here is the detail for what I’m going to talk about.  (If you read this blog on a regular basis, there’s nothing new in here; it’s just packaged for a certain audience.)  Let me know if you think I should say anything else.

(Also, you should get your Bingo cards out for tonight’s meeting.)

Graffiti vs. Art

I had meant to write a longer response to Cara’s comment about graffiti, and never got around to it.  So here’s a belated post, featuring two of my older son’s favorite Worcester sites.

We used to love to see these eyes (next to the former Bancroft Motors )staring at us whenever we went to the main branch of the library.  They reminded me of nothing so much as the eyes Doctor T. J. Eckleburg; he always said they were one of his favorite sites in Worcester.

Cue the (in)famous Rockwell/Michael Jackson tune

Those eyes were beautiful.

But, if the artist didn’t get permission from the property owner, those eyes were graffiti: spray-painted on the side of a garage door in a lot, amidst various pieces of trash, perpetually threatened to be covered over by encroaching weeds.

No matter how fond I was of those eyes, they were graffiti.

Let’s look at everyone’s favorite bus stop:

We'd all ride the bus more if the stops were built like this!

When my husband and children have the opportunity, they like to go to this bus stop and clean it up.  These pictures were taken in the Spring, and my family cleaned up most of the trash you see in here.

DPW also works to keep the level of trash in here at a minimum, and the graffiti you see below was covered over with black paint several months ago.

I have to say that I’m not a fan of painting over graffiti in a case like this, because it ruins the natural look of the stone; I’d rather a graffiti remover were tried first.

We took away the trash that was in here.

Cara made a point in her comment about how she thinks that we should try to understand why the “Hip Hop Generation” feels the need to tag things with graffiti.  My respectfully considered reply is that any such “reason” is entirely beside the point.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who have reasons for running red lights; unless they’re employed in emergency services and on an actual call, that reason — good or bad — should not give them license to run the red light, nor should it prevent them from receiving a ticket.

There are plenty of kids who hate school, some with good reason.  No amount of hating school — no matter what the reason — warrants the kind of destruction that was wreaked upon Belmont Community School several months ago.

Whenever I talk (or hear) about illegal dumping, I hear reasons for why people dump: it’s too expensive, it’s too inconvenient, etc.  But those aren’t reasons, those are excuses.  So I’m not sure what difference it will be hearing the reasons why someone decides to violate people’s property rights — either a private citizen or the city at large — rather than express their pseudo-artistic tendencies on something they own.

I’m tired of people violating my right to have a cute-looking stone bus stop because their social insecurities can only be expressed via spray paint.  I’m tired of people thinking that their right to dump their mattresses and roof shingles is more important than my right to have a peaceful walk in the woods.

Both are intentional acts that violate ordinances and/or laws, and both show an utter disregard for anyone else’s rights.  Dumping on someone else’s property is wrong, and putting your “tag” (whether beautiful or ugly) on someone else’s property is equally wrong.

Let’s not get side-tracked by the “reasons” (excuses) that criminals offer for their behavior.  If the offender finds himself (or herself) in front of a judge when they’ve been caught doing something illegal, they can try to get some leniency in their sentencing by offering their excuses.  Most of us are not the legislators who craft laws, nor are most of us the judges who impose the penalties associated with those laws.  Most of us are just citizens who are expected to comply with laws — in this case, laws that protect the property of others.

Let’s not try to “paint” the issue of graffiti as some sort of civil disobedience aimed at overturning unjust laws.  These people are inflicting costly damage on the properties of others, which in a sense is little different than illegal dumping.  Both cost money/time to clean up, and violate the rights of others.  In our sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden & angsty Hip Hop Generation, let’s not make it easier for that one particular group to violate laws with inpunity and harm the property of others, by legitimizing their excuses.  Because it doesn’t matter.  Causing harm to others (whether to their persons or their property) is an activity that almost all of us agree should be illegal.

Anyway, the the internet now allows us to create graffiti harmlessly on our computers.