Negative rhetoric is the problem
Within every family, business, organization or government there always will be some dissension. That's healthy; it's the way people and groups grow and change.
But constant bickering and emphasis on the negative side of life is not healthy. It's destructive. And we applaud city staff for attempting to change the way some of the city's neighborhood associations are using their assumed power to undermine the government that is the source of their existence.
Listening to citizen complaints over the past months and years, staff members have been given a picture of leadership gone amok - of people with axes to grind using assumed power to attack members of the city council as well as city staff.
This effort is counter-productive. While they might defend their measures as 'democracy in action,' we believe they are motivated by petty grievances, personality conflicts, long-held grudges and the desire to take control.
Constant appeals from neighborhood associations -more than one at a time on a single issue - cause undue costs for the city.
The cost to all city taxpayers is great when tallied at the end of a year. Although it might not increase the tax bill that each resident receives, there is a real cost to be paid in attorneys' salaries, preparing voluminous reports prior to a hearing and regular work gone undone by staff due to compensatory time off after a hearing.
The changes that staff members have suggested in their draft version of an ordinance to change the way NAs operate are not outrageous, as some have stated. Most are reasonable. Even councilors, who have been given an early look at the proposal, are suggesting that it's not perfect and could use a bit of editing. That's why a public forum has been scheduled: to hear other viewpoints.
For example, the idea of competitive grants is likely doomed because it could foster hard feelings between neighborhoods. And the proposal to change quorum requirements for specific decisions might need a bit more adjustment - perhaps a different approach for key choices such as an e-mail, mail-in or phone-in ballot instead of voting at a meeting.
We have no problem with making some adjustments in the rules that govern neighborhood groups, even for the groups that are functioning normally and not causing any problems.
We are strong in support of the concept that neighborhood associations should represent the views of a variety of people, not a narrow faction with a specific bias.
Therefore, any effort - even if funded by taxpayers' funds - to disseminate information to all and encourage people to join the decision-making process is time and money well spent.
That process is truly 'democracy in action.'