“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” from ” Cool Hand Luke” (1967 Warner Bros).
I don’t talk much here about my day job (not at all yet) where communicating effectively can be the difference, literally, between life and death. I’ve been on both sides of that: from being the voice heard that saved a life or lives, or the last one to hear someone else’s voice on this mortal coil. That’s all that needs to be said about that, but know I’m not exaggerating. The importance of communication cannot be understated.
Where I may slightly differ from the general public is what I consider effective communication. In my case the message must be understood (and confirmed) or communication did not take place. For the rest of society, it’s not so dire. Effective communicating can just be making a good speech, or writing a good article with little to no concern in how it’s received or understood. For the purposes of this article, I’m talking about a two-way street. ( And yes, I know what “dialogue” is, just couldn’t slip in this “Cool Hand Luke” reference with it.)
I spoke at the 3/4/08 Longmont City Council meeting about campaign finance. Councilmember Brian Hansen, in the only comment or response to anything I’ve said, mischaracterized my comments. He said ” I know one person said something to the effect that we just are looking this after our latest election and that’s not actually true. We did look at this before that, and so we’re not trying to target anybody in that regard.” Either he has a bad memory or doesn’t listen well. Earlier when I spoke, and I said this clearly and looking right at council as it wasn’t part of my prepared remarks, ” I heard about this before the January election, about campaign finance.”
The other ironic thing is that on January 11th (which would also be before the special election) I sent all the councilmembers an email about campaign rules. To her credit, Karen Benker responded quickly to this email. Unfortunately, around the same time during a council meeting, she made the campaign rules personal against then candidate Gabe Santos. She paid the price for those comments by a lambasting by residents during the January 29th council meeting, and rightly so. How Mr. Hansen could forget that episode, which clearly showed people heard Ms. Benkers campaign finance opinions before the latest election, is beyond me.
As some of you may remember, I had a problem with a recent confusing vote for a board applicant. I wrote a very fair and friendly letter to Mr. Hansen, not an “open letter”, not sent to the Times-Call, not sent to all of the other council members, about his vote, or mis-vote, whichever the case may be. Considering we heard about how these new members would be so open and listening to their constituents, and that I made it clear in this letter I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, all I got back was silence. No, worse than silence, I got my comments twisted by my wards councilmember.
My previous ward’s councilmember, Doug Brown, who I didn’t always agree with on policy, never played this game with me or anyone I know who had dealings with him. I never expect a response when I write elected officials, it’s the main reason I do my “communicating” to them through websites and letters to the editor. At least Mr. Brown had the common decency to not misrepresent my words publicly, but also went the extra effort to call, email, or want to get together to discuss the issues. Perhaps he set the bar too high for any of his successors to live up to.
This behavior is very disappointing, and elected officials shouldn’t expect to enjoy endless benefit of the doubt. It has its limits. I asked for some inkling that there wasn’t this “bloc” mentality, and while silence alone may not have been enough to convince the true believers, what he did sealed the deal for me.
There is a ” bloc“, and they aren’t all great listeners. Deal with it.