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December 31, 2004
Next, They Can Force The Times To Wake Up, Too

A California appellate court has ordered the Los Angeles City Council to perform an apparently extraordinary duty -- to pay attention to its own meetings:

During public hearings, members of the City Council talk on cell phones, chat among themselves, read mail or wander around the room. A state appeals court says they should be doing something else: paying attention.

Ruling on a suit brought by the owners of a strip club, the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the 15-member council acts as a quasi-judicial body when it holds hearings and has a legal duty to listen to testimony or risk violating citizens' due process.

In a hearing involving a strip club owner who was seeking to extend his hours, both sides "had the right to be equally heard, not equally ignored," the court wrote in a decision Thursday, ordering a new hearing.

In the case which sparked the appeal, the city forced the club owner to apply for longer hours, and then rudely ignored the testimony given as the council members had better things to do. I'm usually not terribly sympathetic to strip-club owners, but in this case the court has it right. If the city retains the authority to dictate hours of operation, then they have to provide an effective method to politic for changes or waivers. That necessarily involves a fair hearing, with an emphasis on the literal meaning of the word.

But the big issue isn't due process -- it's the lack of effort by public servants. Los Angeles residents should ask their council why they ran for office if they can't be bothered to pay attention to their business. After all, council members get paid by the taxpayers to conduct city business. If that's an example of how seriously they take serving the community, then LA should feel embarrassed that the court system had to tell them to get to work rather than LA voters.

The next council elections should provide some interesting rhetoric. I propose endorsing the candidates who can stay awake all through the debates, let alone pay attention. Make sure not to vote for anyone who's stupid enough to rationalize their attention-deficit approach with this:

Dennis Zine, a councilman who appeared to be paying attention in the videotape, said he thought the city should appeal.

"It's impractical for us to sit there like students in a classroom paying attention to the professor," he said.

Zine should find better ways to spend his time, and LA voters should find council members that want to work for the taxpayers.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 31, 2004 10:24 PM

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