Latest in a series of posts on City Government
Bill Scheirer is an economist who grew up in Bethlehem, spent 40 years in DC, and retired here in 2003. He is a life member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City and was on the Mayor’s Task Force for the City of Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Zoning Map.
Just as it takes three things to go wrong simultaneously for an airliner to crash, it takes only two things to go wrong for a lack of decorum and civility at the city council: a disruptive councilperson and a “soft gavel.” Enforcing Robert’s Rules will not in any way suppress ideas, because any actionable idea can be expressed without insulting another person or impugning their motives. The purpose of Robert’s Rules is to get things done in a meeting. In order to do so, the Rules eliminate time-consuming arguments about process, and eliminate the inflammatory comments described above, which can lead to responses that are sometimes inflammatory in themselves, and to a meeting that can end up, in the extreme, in a fist fight, which happened once in a Lehigh Valley Township. There is a reason why Robert’s Rules are followed in almost every deliberative body in the United States of America and have lasted for well over 100 years. This reason is to actually get things done in a meeting. After the meeting, you can shift to the First Amendment.