GENE ROBERTSON: City Council meeting illustrates democracy in action

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | 2:41 p.m. CDT; updated 4:38 p.m. CST, Monday, November 21, 2011

If anyone would like to see an ideal expression of democracy in action, look at the Oct. 16 Columbia City Council meeting.

Due to scheduling, the council agenda created the opportunity for an almost-perfect example of citizen participation and democratic decorum.

The meeting had to expand from the regular meeting room to an adjoining meeting space because of the large number of attendees who made their presence known and their voices heard.

The mayor did a good job of allowing participants to express themselves. He shuffled the agenda to allow other important items to be postponed until the highest-priority item — ward reapportionment — got the serious attention it deserved.

The attendees accepted this rescheduling with understanding and respect. Good behavior prevailed throughout the discussion. 

Neighborhood leaders, grassroots groups and individual citizens were allowed to speak. Unlike the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, most of Monday night's participants appeared to know what they wanted.

Many of the presentations were well-researched, documented and to the point. Others were not.

Yet the mayor and the council responded to each expression with disciplined attention and respect.

Congratulations, Columbia. You lived up to your potential.

You demonstrated democracy. Let's continue to behave at this high level.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.

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