Editorial: Drivel copied here in its entirety:
Last Sunday in these pages, Boulder city manager Jane Brautigam made the case that this newspaper, in a recent story and editorial on private meetings between city planning staff and major developers, came to conclusions that “fly in the face of the facts and common sense.”
She admitted to being “disappointed and disturbed” by what has appeared in these pages and the email inboxes of city officials “and the accusations of unethical behavior and malintent.” It is not entirely clear whether she found such accusations in these pages or those inboxes, but it didn’t seem to matter. The most important value, she suggested, should be respectfulness. She mentioned that six times.
Meanwhile, in internal notes among city staff members obtained by the Camera, one staffer sufficiently high-ranking to have input into the city’s public relations messaging referred to outside criticism as “drivel.” She expressed a desire that someone on behalf of the city issue “something that responds to the drivel, maybe takes some folks to task (not by name of course) while rising above it and modeling leadership.”
In other words, throw a few punches while pretending to be above the fray. Brautigam’s op-ed appears to have been the result.
In the age of “Je suis Charlie,” we hope most students of a free press understand that our role is not to respect authority but to question it. Perhaps it is time for a little remedial instruction on just who these unelected city administrators work for.
They work for the people. They are called public servants for a reason, even if they may choose at times to lecture the people they are supposed to be serving.
It is particularly inappropriate that these self-serving lectures in manners come from unelected bureaucrats. If an elected official — say, the mayor, or another member of city council — chooses to take on critics of city hall, we’re all for it. That encourages the debate Boulder should be having, and voters can always render their judgment on that official’s stance at the next election.
The whole point of the council-manager form of city government, a reform of political patronage when it was first introduced, was to get the professional staff out of politics and political arguments; to make sure they were in fact servants of the people, sworn to execute, not advocate policy. It is less important to trace how unelected staff usurped this role in Boulder than it is to restore elected officials to it.
For starters, we would suggest dropping the posturing about respectfulness. Referring to dissent as “drivel” is not particularly respectful, but we don’t mind. We believe the city’s belated decision to provide public notice and access to the private meetings between developers and staff is a tacit admission that these meetings were known only to insiders and that this state of affairs was inappropriate.
We will continue to question authority aggressively. That is our job. We will also continue to advocate that the professional city staff return to its rightful role and let the politicians handle the politics.
—Dave Krieger, for the editorial board. Email email@example.com. Twitter @DaveKrieger