Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Saginaw Our Saginaw

Down in North Carolina a couple years ago, was this lady who was determined to have the City Council meetings cablecast on the Government access channel. I tried to help her. All she wanted to do was video tape the Council meetings, uncensored, unedited and let the public decide if they liked how Council was behaving. At one point she said to me “I know more about what is going on at the White House than what is going on in City government.” I thought that was darn profound.

But some elected officials just can’t stand the scrutiny. They really like it when only five or six people show up in person and they don’t like it when those meetings get aired and you get forty or fifty people watching them from home. And they really get their noses pushed out of shape when the camera catches them mugging or snoozing or even in one instance I remember, flipping the bird at their opponent.

Then let some nimby-type gad flies show up and start criticizing in an open public forum that is being shown on TV and these fine upstanding politicos just can’t resist the urge to censor.

So it goes in Saginaw Michigan. Home of the largest bean elevator in Michigan and probably the largest bean brains to hold office. On Monday night Councilman Amos O’Neal won a 6-2 vote to “cease and desist with telecasting of council meetings effective immediately.” When asked what immediately meant, O’Neal responded he meant right that second and ordered the government access director to pull the plug. The channel went from the live cablecast to a bulletin board.

That didn’t make sixty-six year old Lois Beckert too happy, she grabbed her keys and her purse and made a bee line for City Hall where she proceeded to sit for the next five hours.

“The Council is so ignorant,” said Beckert. Of course she didn’t get to voice that opinion during a live cablecast.

O’Neal used money as his excuse for his behavior. But then he said “Obviously people use this podium for a platform. We don’t need to provide a platform for them to advocate their positions, either pro or con.”

I guess O’Neal can’t cogitate that at the very second he pulled this stunt we have American men and women off in foreign lands giving up their very lives so that the people in Saginaw Michigan can advocate their positions whether pro or con. Shame on O’Neal for being a bully. And shame on the other five who went along with it.

Clement Atlee, the British Prime Minister after Winston Churchill said “Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking."

So maybe that’s what O’Neal et al were trying to do, create an effective democracy by shutting people up.

If the only thing a Government access channel ever does is show City and County Council meetings it has earned its weight in gold. That channel has increased democracy by a thousand times and it has assured our ability to live in a free and open society. But a Government access channel cannot do its job when little Napoleans get elected to office and seek to destroy it.

The official song of Saginaw boasts a wonderful city where truth and beauty reign. Maybe O’Neal needs to learn the words of that song and maybe the voters need to teach him that tune come November.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments, Bunnie. With a little luck, we'll have that vote on changing the form of city government and throw all the bums out on their ears.
John Herbst
Lifelong resident
Saginaw, MI