Monday night I went to my first Fargo City Commission meeting. I went to try to give some support to the OneFargo ND and Black Lives Matter groups but there was at least one problem. I wasn't really able to demonstrate that support within the rules of the meeting. I had thought that public input was regularly welcomed at City Commission meetings, but that's not the case.
A person or group apparently has to describe in detail what they would like to talk about in advance to get on the agenda. Only then can they speak, and they must stick extremely closely to that description. I'm guessing this is supposed to keep the process orderly and moving along, which I have to agree is desirable when the city has to discuss and make decisions about technical things like zoning variances and construction projects and whether to make a new ordinance on front yard gardening, but we're living in a time when life isn't following any agenda.
We're in a pandemic and the underpinnings of our economy and our society are being laid bare. The lucky ones of us have finally discovered just how lucky we've been for so many years. Maybe sometimes not following a preset meeting agenda absolutely to the letter might be a good idea when people are hurting and need to be heard. Maybe adding a few special, extra, meetings where the public can speak their minds would also be a good idea. We badly need to hear each other and if it doesn't happen, I believe we will all suffer even more.
I do think that Commissioners Strand and Preston did a good job of trying to empathize, understand and communicate but I think a lot more talking and listening is needed after what I saw in the meeting. I would also very much like to see a basic lesson in how these meetings are conducted published somewhere and that lesson should be promoted, marketed, or whatever you want to call it in as many places as possible. How can the public communicate with the city if the avenue to communication is really a maze?
Whatever I personally might think of Deputy Chief Renner or Police Chief Todd, one way or the other, isn't really going to get recorded when I'm not allowed to speak.