At most of the village council’s twice-monthly business meetings, Commissioner Martin Tellalian is quick to add a comment or ask a question on the topic at hand. Sometimes the commissioner is seeking only a brief point of clarification and at other times he’s interested in expressing a more lengthy sentiment. To even a first-time attendee at one of these meetings it quickly becomes apparent that Tellalian likes to ask questions. It’s also easy to see that he appreciates the same quality in others.
Following the July 28 council meeting, Tellalian made clear that he’s frustrated by what he sees as a lack of substantive debate among the commissioners. Too often, he said, important issues are voted up or down with nary a comment from anyone. Tellalian went so far as to accuse his colleagues of not doing their homework and sitting quietly on the dais like unprepared students praying the teacher doesn’t take notice.
Following the April 2007 elections, discourse on the council has been considerably improved. The previous group was absolutely entrenched in their personal battles and it was obvious that the motivation for so many discussions had little to do with the public good. This goes for both sides.
Generally speaking, we certainly agree that more meaningful council discussions make for an informed public. To that end, we agree with Tellalian that debates should be welcomed by all the commissioners. However, we don’t agree that this council has a tendency toward convenient silence.
The mayor, a seasoned veteran on the council, says he sees a bit of showboating in some of Tellalian’s remarks. He also described Tellalian as a “debater” who enjoys the back and forth in a conversation. Largely, said the mayor, he’s pleased with the amount of discussion from the commissioners.
We agree with the mayor on all these points, but one. In our opinion, Tellalian asks meaningful questions and seems genuine in soliciting comments from his colleagues. It’s obvious when elected officials try and lead one another into a trap for the sake of making a point, and Tellalian does not practice such tactics. What the commissioner may be guilty of is failing to relinquish an argument when it’s clear that he’s the only one who holds that particular opinion. So be it. Residents attend council meetings to get a sense of where their elected officials stand.
This last point brings us to Commissioner Michael Curry’s remarks about efficiency. For the record, we derive as little pleasure as anyone in attending lengthy, hours-long meetings, so Curry’s effort to do a little fact checking beforehand is appreciated. But efficiency shouldn’t trump transparency. The people who trekked to village hall to observe their government in action deserve to understand what is they’re paying for.