Allentown City Council member Michael Donovan, who ostentatiously refers to himself as a "City Councilor," apparently has a law degree, too. He publicly defends the city's gag rule, under which candidates are muzzled at council meetings, as a matter of efficiency. He makes all kinds of ridiculous arguments. Here's one of them. "I don't see PA legislators or Congress having citizens, let alone candidates, speaking before their sessions. Do they? I may be wrong, but I don't think so."
Hey Councilor, that's because the Sunshine Act and Home Rule Charter have no application to those legislative bodies. Geez!
Instead of promoting "inclusion," Donovan has argued for the outright exclusion of candidates who might waste 21 minutes of his precious time during public meetings. Is he that afraid of what they might say?
Another member of Allentown City Council, Tony Phillips, believes we should allow ALL candidates to speak. After last week's city council meeting, Tony approached Ms. Fruwirth. Phillips' argument, which is actually quite clever, is that Lou's speech would actually be consistent with the gag rule. You see, under the gag rule, a candidate is only barred from discussing "new issues." Phillips argues that Hershman would be discussing matters that previously had been on the table. According to Phillips, Solicitor Fruwirth then admitted she had screwed up.
Now she might deny this or claim that Tony misunderstood her and that he needs elocution lessons, but she never returned my call. Looks like she's applying that gag rule to herself.
Marc Grammes, a class act former Lehigh County Commissioner who is on the sidelines for now, makes a very eloquent argument in favor of public dialogue.
"It has been my experience that if a candidate has the willingness to appear before a group of elected officials and express his or her opinion, it shows that they have an interest in the the office they seek. It is, after all, a public meeting. As a candidate, I was given the courtesy to speak before the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. I also spoke before several local municipal bodies while a candidate, if only to introduce myself. While a member of the Board of Commissioners, candidates came before us and they were given the courtesy of the floor just the same as any other citizen. It shows interest in the office. And it shows interest in the people who come before the Board. Elected officials are public servants. Part of public service is listening to the views of your constituents, whether or not you agree with them. Excluding individuals from participation in their government weakens the democratic process."
Marc, I think we might have to start calling you Councilor.