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FORUM

Writer backs move towards civility

Late last week, in response to a request from Sunnyside Councilman Nick Paulakis, Councilman Jason Raines posted this entry at blogsunnyside.com/2012/02/29/a-zenger-in-sunnyside/.

Having been in attendance at the last council meeting and several others, I found the councilman's blog inaccurate and formulated a response.

However, Mr. Raines has not posted my comment to his blog, which, as you'll see, directly conflicts with his desire to uphold the First amendment:

Mr. Raines, One of the most important rights that Americans hold dear is our right to freedom of speech. As a citizen I have every right to attend public meetings and make my voice heard, in order to either further my own interests or to make sure that the will of the people is being carried out by elected officials.

While your post contends that the suggestion made by Councilman Paulakis would put the citizen's right to speak freely before the council in jeopardy that is simply not the case.

Councilman Paulakis asked, on Monday evening, that the council act and speak with a level of decorum fitting for their positions. Having been in attendance at several meetings, since the new council was officially seated, I have found myself appalled at the behavior of a number of council members.

And it is this behavior to which the councilman referred. Paulakis's request that the council act with decorum was at no point, when he spoke, directed toward the citizens of Sunnyside. Rather, the request, during discussion, was applied to the general public.

As an outside observer, a member of the public, if you will, it appeared to me that several council members were prepared to speak prior to Paulakis completing his statement.

Before two minutes had elapsed the Constitution was brandished and a cry rose up that the public right to free speech must not be squashed. The public's right to come before the council and to speak about wrongs perceived and committed cannot be squashed; however, there is a desperate need in Sunnyside for the council, themselves, to speak to each other with respect and with decorum.

While it may be hard to see the public from the dais, I have had a good view of not only my mere citizen cohorts, but of the council as well.

Each meeting I attend, I find myself leaving irritated and often angry at the behavior of the council. I sit in the audience watching as certain council members belittle and denigrate each other, tacking on niceties-"with all due respect," "Mr. Mayor if you'll allow me..."-that do nothing more than to shine a spotlight on an apparent lack of respect the members of your board possess for each other.

Because of the lack of respect the council seems to have for each other, the people's business is neither being addressed, nor accomplished.

The meetings stretch on for hours as council members hold side bars with each other prior to discussion on issues and prior to votes.

Many of the council members speak with righteous indignation asking to see receipts for expenditures and questioning decisions made by department heads. Rather than giving the appearance that each council member has read and understands the documents provided on each agenda issue, the council instead acts as if the meeting is the first time they have received certain documents. This leads to, or should, a lack of confidence in the council.

In this issue, I side with Councilman Paulakis. It is time that the council begins acting like adults and the voice of the people of Sunnyside. It is time to put differences and pettiness aside and to remind yourselves that you serve the people and that you owe it to the people to treat each other with respect and dignity.

/s/ Jeanine Bator, Toppenish

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