In defense of the Florence City Council members

May 27, 2020 — Guest Viewpoint

(Editor’s Note: Viewpoint submissions on this and other topics are always welcome as part of our goal to encourage community discussion and exchange of perspectives.)

I couldn’t help but be amused, disturbed and baffled by Sally Wantz’s recent Guest Viewpoint (“Council Should Make Public Meetings Public Inclusive,” 5-23-20.)

Do we have nothing better to do during the current crisis than sit on the sideline and send Letters To The Editor of the local newspaper criticizing our city council’s approach to conducting business?

Do we not all realize that we are in very uncharted waters — and the City Council is doing it’s very best to conduct business under unprecedented restrictions levied by Salem?

In her letter, Ms. Wantz stated that she was “horrified” at what she heard and saw during the May 18 city council meeting.

Maybe “horrified” means something very different to many of us.  She was horrified because the slides shown were fuzzy and because she could not see the expression on the faces of the mayor and council members. She was also “horrified” that the mayor declined to ask everyone to say the Pledge of Allegiance on a phone call.

Let me address all of these “horrifying” events.

First, it was explained to me that in order to conduct business during these trying times, the city council has adopted updated public meeting policies which can be found on the city’s website.

One of those policies was to not hold public comment on items that are not on the agenda. And both the agenda and clear copies of the staff presentations were made available to the public before the meeting on the city’s website.

This was apparently explained to Ms. Wantz within hours of her complaints to the city, but not acceptable to prevent what I feel is a critical and deceptive letter in the paper.

Regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, it was explained that since this was a telephone meeting with no visuals, that the Pledge would not be done as usual.  This makes sense as normally the Pledge is done when facing the flag — exactly like in Rotary meetings.

It is ironic that, in recent years, a sitting city councilwoman — and friend of Ms. Wantz — would routinely not say the Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings.

Yet this didn’t seem to “horrify” anybody or appear in the newspaper. And in my opinion, anyone who knows Mayor Henry realizes there is no one in town more patriotic — or with more respect for our flag — than him.

Ms. Wantz may want to disagree with the interim policies adopted by the city council or want to see a different technology format for virtual meetings, but the city was able to quickly pivot to a virtual format for meetings using the technology available, including researching the use of Zoom; and they are doing the best that they can do until new and expensive software and hardware are purchased.

It’s very easy to sit on the sideline and snipe at a talented and dedicated group of people trying to make the best of an unprecedented and challenging situation.

Are whatever comments that people want to make so critical that they can’t wait a few weeks until they can be accommodated?

Can we please take a moment to thank and support the members of our city council rather than rake them through the coals for “horrifying” you?


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