Council’s Use of Roberts Rules of Order

By Mayor Rose
The acceptance of how we are, individually and as members of a group, has been one of the things I have clearly learned as the Mayor of Salida. As I have stated over and over again, the City Council, in our personal beliefs, is an amazingly accurate representation of the views of the citizens of Salida. I would emphasize that the full spectrum of the most progressive to most conservative beliefs are held by the current Council. It would be easy for the members of the Salida City Council to devolve into a feuding name calling body. Examples abound of such dysfunction among elected groups is in the news everyday. These examples offer postures without moving toward solutions.

When I first got on the Council, Councilman Tom Yerkey stated, “let us agree to disagree and then move on”. This set the tone for active debate and whether we lost or won the vote, the desire to move to the next topic without holding grudges, while seeking solutions for the greater good remained the focus. Councilman Damman often starts his statements of dissent by using the lead in of, “With all due respect”. While we often hear this in various venues, Mr. Damman means it and reinforces Mr. Yerkey’s desire to focus on getting things done. There are other examples of how each Council person, even when in vehement disagreement with others, has maintained decorum and respect for others beliefs in the heat of the moment.

Brigadier General Henry Martyn Roberts was a career soldier and a graduate of West Point. After the Civil War General Roberts became the Chairman of his church board and was appalled at the difficulty of getting things done in an amiable fashion. His solution was to develop and publish “Roberts Rules of Order” a parliamentary procedure guide. It has been the main guide for public meetings since 1876. The most important concept stated in “Roberts” is that the meetings should deal with issues not personalities. The major goal of “Roberts” is to have the majority prevail while protecting the rights of the minority.

We will disagree. How we make our views known is very important. Since the letter has become an antiquated form of communication our methods of communication have become less and less personal. Unfortunately, whether it is someone giving the finger as they drive by in the fortress of their vehicle or the anonymity of voicemail and e-mail, we act as if there are no witnesses to our anger and no ramifications of the unrestrained expression of it. Believe me, little positive results from name calling. You actually harm your viewpoint by expressing any sentiment in a negative fashion. It might sell newspapers or make people tune in to a show, but it does nothing to create solutions to the current challenges.

I have gained greatly in communicating with those that hold opposite viewpoints from me. I still will disagree with their views but will not denigrate who they are or what they stand for. Getting to know those who hold a different perspective than me has always left me with a sense of respect for those I disagree with and makes it easier to discuss the problem while not straying into character assassination.

The First Amendment right guaranteeing freedom of speech is key to our viability as a nation. However, using restraint and fostering a sense of mutual respect is how we keep all voices heard and engaged in the constant evolution of our country. The majority wins in a democracy but not by trammeling on the rights of the minority nor by drowning out dissident views with angry, irrelevant rhetoric. We find answers to our problems by not acting in anger towards the opposition, but by being inclusive as we seek those answers.