Communication experts speak of the importance of “active listening,” which is defined as making a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the totality of the message being communicated.
It requires that one pay attention, stay focused and resist the temptation to form counterarguments while the other person is speaking – because, in interpersonal communication – nothing telegraphs the true motivations, status and advantage dividing the sender and receiver of information like preaching, patronizing and interruption.
One of the most acute symptoms of the dysfunction that permeates our local political system is the pomposity of power – the setting apart of our elected representatives – who seize control through a horribly broken campaign finance system that allows oligarchical players to shunt massive funds to hand-select candidates.
A sordid, yet completely legal, process that leaves many local elections a foregone conclusion – and removes the political competitiveness that gives We, The Little People a chip in the game. . .
The resultant Teflon coating of haughtiness that forms on the anointed ones, who no longer have to worry about developing a relationship with their constituents to ensure reelection, was most evident last week when members of the Volusia County Council missed a golden opportunity to address some of the most pressing civic and social issues of our time.
During Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting, several concerned community activists representing the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other recognized area leaders stood before our elected officials to very eloquently address some of the most pressing social issues of our time.
Unfortunately, with active protests occurring both locally and nationally, their important presentations fell on deaf ears. . .
In keeping with Chairman Ed Kelley’s royal decree that the exalted members of The Monarchy neither physically acknowledge, nor verbally engage, with the servile subjects who come before them – Old Ed warned the DBBCA representative to direct his words only to him – then cutoff NAACP President Cynthia Slater when her “time was up.”
Rather than demonstrate a modicum of respect for the opinions and suggestions of those community leaders who took their time to come to DeLand and provide substantive input in addressing the seemingly intractable differences we face – our elected dullards openly ignored them – sitting in stone silence atop the dais of power – perfectly communicating the fact they could give two-shits about their concerns or input.
When I pointed this out on Friday, the response I received on social media from our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, was most telling:
“The public participation part of the meeting from 9:30-10:00 is for anyone to offer their comments on anything they choose with a 3 minute time frame to follow. I have asked any and all of the Clergy that spoke to meet anytime for meaningful dialog. As you can read Council does not comment during this time.”
To make sure I understood my place, he attached a snippet of the county’s “rules” governing a citizen’s right to address their elected officials, the most important being:
“After you are recognized by the County Chair, state your name and address for the record before beginning your comments. You may speak up to three minutes, either during Public Participation or when an agenda item is heard.
The County Council will not answer questions or requests during Public Participation.”
Pull your head out of your ass, Mr. Chairman. This one’s important.
Clearly, Old Ed just doesn’t get it. . .never did, never will – and not one of our elected officials broke ranks and told Chairman Kelley he was full of shit and engaged in substantive discussion with the delegation.
Here in the Kingdom of the Damned, I believe the arrogance of ignorance is rooted in the fact our elected officials have lost the capacity to listen to the concerns of anyone other than their uber-wealthy handlers – even as our community begs to be heard.
Look, we all understand that when we enter the halls of power in that Citadel of Self-importance at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building, the rules-are-the-rules – and they are inviolate.
Unless, of course, our wholly compromised elected officials want to indulge in their frequent practice of “Public Policy by Ambush” – voting on important issues that directly affect our lives and livelihoods after strategically leaving the details off the printed agenda to prevent even the possibility of contention – or public input.
As always, the rules are different depending upon which side of the dais you are sitting on.
And that breeds frustration, animosity and anger.
Now, more than ever, we need policy-makers who are willing to open their ears, minds and hearts to the wants, needs and dreams of their long-suffering constituents – servant-leaders with the capacity to actively listen to those who are working diligently to return peace to our streets and give voice to those seeking social justice and basic fairness.
My sincere hope is that change will begin at the ballot box this fall.
I say again:
Had these haughty assholes on the dais of power taken the time to engage in purposeful dialog with these influential community leaders, how might that discourse have ameliorated the simmering tensions and brought us all a little closer to middle ground?
Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Something tells me that after the way these civic leaders were publicly humiliated when they approached the Volusia County Council during what passed for “public participation,” these respected clergymen and community representatives won’t bother to take Chairman Kelley up on his hollow offer of “meaningful dialog” on his terms.
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