You can see the video at Molovinsky's blog. After the 6-1 vote authorizing the use of eminent domain, one big-bearded fellow stood up and shouted, "Your physical expressions pretty much tell every one in this room to fuck off." He complained about a lack of "eye contact" from Council members. "You, black hair," he said, pointing to a Council member. Another fellow got up and called Pawlowski "a Chicago gangster."
Of course, two police officers were on hand to clear the room.
This type of thuggish behavior is unacceptable during a public meeting, no matter how justified the complaints. It's mob rule.
But just as the crowd behaved badly, so did City Council. As the room erupted, you could see several Council members laughing at the outburst. That certainly lends credence the impression that they just don't care.
But something else was bothering the public, too.
At Allentown City Council meetings, every single member has a laptop fired up, and spends more time looking at the screens than listening to the public, or so it seems. I've noticed that myself.
This is what Patrick McHenry says at Molovinsky's blog,
Regarding the laptops, I have this from someone who knows:I decided to ask several Council members about it. They both deny using their laptops to email each other or make fun of people.
Some use the laptops to send each other e-mails during council meetings and make fun of those speaking.
They think they're so clever, but they're so far from it.
Mike Schlossberg tells me, "I use the laptop for one of three things – either to look at the legislation that we are debating, to review my own pre-meeting notes/jot down notes as I go or research claims that speakers/the administration/my colleagues are making."
I cover lots of meetings in different municipalities, and the use of laptops and even iPads is becoming increasingly common.
Ken Kraft, who sits on Bethlehem's ZHB and is glued to his iPad, has actually shown me how he uses it to pull up Google maps of properties being discussed. Nobody would even know he has it because he doesn't have to open it up and hide behind it.
I understand what Ken and Mike are saying, and think they are helped by these devices.
But just as public outbursts tend to be counterproductive, municipal officials might reconsider using their laptops when being addressed by the public. It creates the impression that they just don't care. And that leads to outbursts.