Our View: Nevada City Council meeting brings sound, fury and significance
This week’s Nevada City Council meeting was full of sound and fury, which included a healthy amount of significance from the public.
After pushing the equivalent of the nuclear button, the council on Tuesday backed away from stripping the mayor’s title from Councilwoman Reinette Senum, or even censuring her. Instead a massive crowd of mainly Senum supporters spoke at length during public comment, and the council — after making a whole bunch of noise — backed off.
Senum apologized on Tuesday, and the council moved on — a suggestion this editorial board made two weeks ago.
Arguably, it was the best move the council could have made.
This whole brouhaha shouldn’t have existed in the first place. If one council member had taken Senum aside before this drama began and asked her to tone down the rhetoric and avoid making personal statements to the media, we might have sidestepped this situation.
And you don’t need to have a meeting that violates the Brown Act to have that conversation.
In fact, there’s a mountain of problems the council could have avoided. We might never have experienced the battle to censure Senum if the players involved had followed the rules of the game.
Councilwoman Erin Minett, who originally introduced the motion to censure or strip Senum of the mayor’s title, presented one complaint about Senum Tuesday night. She and Councilman Duane Strawser said they’d been contacted about the issue.
“You better start siding with the right side,” Minett said her message stated. “We know where you live.”
Providing a recording of that message would have helped that argument. No one should threaten another in this way, and we should believe people when they say they’ve been threatened.
But in this context, in this moment, a recording would have gone a long way to emphasizing Minett’s point.
It’s a good rule to follow when trying to punish a city’s mayor.
Another good rule to obey: Do the people’s business in public.
Nevada City wanted to mediate the situation with Senum behind closed doors at a “training session.” That session was, in fact, turned into an open meeting — which it should have been in the first place — once city officials realized they’d violate the Brown Act if they kept the doors closed.
You can’t hide the people’s business because it’s uncomfortable or unseemly. Yes, it’s dirty laundry, but it must be aired.
Sunshine has a way of making even the dirtiest of problems turn clean.
And, if we’re lucky, it’ll have a way of setting the Nevada City Council on the right track and keep it there.
If a majority of the council thinks any one member isn’t up to the job of being mayor, it can tweak its rules and choose someone else for the position.
But when it picks someone known for her outspoken views and controversial stance, don’t be surprised when those views and stance are made known, publicly, and often.
And good for council members like Duane Strawser, who came into that meeting planning on taking action against Senum and changing his mind after hearing from the public.
This whole process was messy, filled with hard feelings and done in the open — exactly how it should be.
Government by the people, for the people isn’t supposed to be easy. Harsh words and hurt feelings come with the game.
As does a healthy amount of significance.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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