Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Letter: City manager treated fairly

March 13, 2002

To the Editor:

In a recent Chieftain column, Rae Sedgwick expressed confusion about the departure of the Bonner Springs city manager, and showed some confusion about other issues regarding the City Council. If the learned doctor is confused, others who do not attend Council meetings may also be confused.

First, I submit that our city manager has been treated fairly. Fairness is the appropriate standard.

In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that the council now has excellent leadership. Those who have attended council meetings presided over by Mayor (Steve) Breneman know that he is an

exceptionally capable man who has been willing to listen to every citizen that has asked to make their views known to the council.

Dr. Sedgwick bemoans a perceived inability to "work the process." The core issue in the conflict within the council is the process itself. The salient fact is that there two processes being espoused. One is open and responsive; the other is closed and obdurate. The dispute is about which process will prevail. Because this is an ethical and philosophical issue, it may not be resolved easily through compromise.

Yes, the direction of the council can be decided in the voting booth, but not quickly. When the public demands change from the city government, as they did in the last election, only half of the council terms are filled in that election. Unless the continuing council members are responsive to their constituents and respect the will of the public, the council will not necessarily respond to a mandate from the electorate. Change, growth, new ideas, new people, new ways, openness, non-discriminatory administration; these are goals that may take more than one election to fully achieve, but we are moving in the right direction.

Dr. Sedgwick wants consensus. So do we all. Some consensual agreements are developed through legitimate democratic processes. Such agreements are the intended product of democracy. Other consensual agreements are the by-products of rubber-stamp governing bodies that arbitrarily pass, without question, whatever their bosses write and place before them. Either of these two opposite processes, ideal democracy or farcical mockery of democracy, can generate unanimity. For over a year, dozens of citizens of Bonner Springs have worked to move our Council further from the latter model toward the former.

Dr. Sedgwick may miss the unanimity of days past. But, if elected representatives don't debate policies, bad decisions will be made. Bonner Springs government has benefited from the scrutiny of our new City Council members. That scrutiny has uncovered problems that would not otherwise have been solved. City Council members are responsible for avoiding bad decisions. They are also responsible for complying with the open meetings laws. To comply with both requirements, they must actually debate issues in public meetings.

If Dr. Sedgwick has any specific concerns about our city government, they should be conveyed to the mayor and to the City Council.

Henry H. Chamberlain, III

Bonner Springs

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