Elected officials squelch constituents’ comments

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Elected officials used to give the appearance that they cared what their constituents had to say by listening to them, even if they disagreed with them.

That certainly isn’t the case today, as both County Council Chairman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, and Crestwood Mayor Gregg Roby have made it clear they don’t care what their constituents have to say, particularly if they disagree with them.

In O’Mara’s case, he summoned a police officer to force Oakville resident Jim Hamilton off the podium after Hamilton told the County Council March 22 he had a few more things he wished to say beyond the council’s three-minute time limit on speakers.

O’Mara’s ham-fisted response clearly was uncalled for and unnecessary.

In Roby’s case, he squelched public comment March 22 on the second readings of five ordinances related to the redevelopment of the former Crestwood Plaza. Ironically, the ordinances were held over to give residents a chance to review them and presumably comment on them.

Yet Roby said residents would not be able to comment when the board considered the second reading of the mall-related measures, only during the designated period for public comment, as Director of Public Services Jim Gillam timed them and warned them when they had 30 seconds of their three-minute limit to speak remaining.

In both cases, O’Mara and Roby knew they had the votes necessary to approve the measures. Why not be magnanimous and let residents speak their piece? Are they so thin-skinned that they can’t bear to hear dissenting views? Or do they just not care what their constituents have to say?

Quite frankly, we’re not sure which is worse.

But the blame doesn’t lie solely with O’Mara and Roby.

County Council members and Crestwood aldermen sat there like bumps on a log as O’Mara and Roby silenced their constituents.

The meetings are not O’Mara’s or Roby’s. They are meetings of the County Council and the Board of Aldermen. Both bodies have the ability to override the chairman and mayor and allow residents to speak.

Not allowing residents to have their say on issues that directly affect them can only be considered cowardly. We can remember when elected officials not only welcomed residents’ comments, but actually listened to them.

It’s extremely unfortunate that’s not the case today in St. Louis County and Crestwood.