Having once worked for a legislative committee I know that moving around items on the agenda, and allowing for certain people in attendance to testify and then leave, is a simple thing to do. It accommodates a few people, and allows the members of the committee or council to gain additional input. Sadly, that was not the case last night at the Madison City Council meeting.
During the late local news on WMTV last night it was reported that young people in attendance since 6 P.M., wanting the chance to express their views on the curfew ordinance, needed to leave as 10 P.M. approached. After all, it was a school night. They had prepared statements they wanted to make to the Madison City Council, but never was given the chance, unless they wanted to wait until late into the night. I was at my computer to write a post very similair to this one, and then I thought I must have heard the news in-correctly. After all, it was so short-sighted that I felt for sure I had not heard it right. But then today I read the following.
Several youth came to testify against the ordinance change, but left before the subject was taken up at 10:30 p.m., he added.
“You had a lot of youth in this room who wanted to engage with you and you sent a serious message,” Zipperer said. “They heard, ‘Go home.’ They really wanted to stay. I was back here listening to them talk — they had to go home because they had schoolwork. They were responsible, but they really wanted to be here. They saw swine flu get moved up and not them.”
That is not the way to conduct a meeting. And it sure as heck is no way to demonstrate to our concerned youth who actually show up to a meeting that they are valued and respected. It does nothing to show that this is their democracy too, and that they have a role to play in it..
It would have been very doable, and appropriate, for a motion to have been made to allow the youth present to testify, and then leave for dinner and homework that waited at home. The Madison City Council then could have returned to the normal agenda, and talked until the cows came home. Had it been done my way the youth who took the time to show up and participate in government would not have felt like second-class citizens, or marginalized due to their age.
For a city that likes to promote the idea we are just a bit better and smarter we must recognize that we still have a ways to go to get to the top.