If I Were On The Elk Grove City Council I Would . . . 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs'

February 20, 2016 |

I had the good fortune of obtaining a great education at public schools and universities in Michigan during the 1960s and 70s. During that time I had a variety of dedicated educators with truly diverse backgrounds who gave students their all.

While I could write endlessly on the wealth of educators, there is one who merits attention. That would be my high school chemistry teacher Mrs. Alred. Though retired in 2010 after 39 years in the classroom, at the time I was her student she was just a couple years out of college and was not much older than my classmates and me. 

Mrs. Alred was such a gifted chemistry teacher, that this B- chemistry student turned University of Michigan-Dearborn business major tutored engineering students in my freshman calculus class. Unbeknownst to her students, she was teaching a bunch of high school chemistry students at college level.

Beyond that, she also taught us a more subtle lesson that I did not come to appreciate until years later. It was about respect.

Unlike any educator I had, Mrs. Alred addressed her students not by their first names, but by adding the title of Miss (this was the early 70s still) or Mister. When asked about this, Mrs. Alred insisted if we could not address her using her first name, Jean, in the name of equality, she would extend her students the same respect.

So it was Mr. Santiago, or Miss Van Becelaere. Never Gordon or Lisa.

When watching Elk Grove City Council meetings, or almost any other local government session, rarely do we see elected officials formally addressing staff members, much less the members of the public in such a formal manner.

Hell, even when she was grilled for 11 hours over the Benghazi affair, hostile Members of Congress addressed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as Madame Secretary, Secretary or Mrs. Clinton. I cannot recall Congressman Trey Goudy addressing Clinton as Hillary.

Here in Elk Grove, when members of the public are addressed, rarely do we hear the Mayor, Vice Mayor or City Council Members formally respond to them. On the rare occasion when Mister or Miss is used, it is usually when a Council Member is scolding a constituent. 

Although I would have to view the recording to say with exact certainty, if memory serves me correctly it seems that Elk Grove City Council Member Pat Hume, who was clearly irritated with comments by Michael Monasky at the February 10 meeting, did use Mister. In this context, Hume used it was an expression of condemnation, not respect.

Elk Grove City Council Members also fail to address the City Manager as Ms. Gill or the City Attorney as Mr. Hobbs (or anyone else on the city staff) choosing to use the less formal Laura and Jon, not even Jonathon, respectively. At one meeting Council Member Darren Suen even stooped so low as to call Senior Planner Christopher Jordan as "CJ." 

Come on Council Member Suen, you gentlemen are professionals, or so you keep telling us. Leave the nicknames for the bar or basketball court and start displaying some professionalism.

So I might suggest that Mayor Gary Davis, Vice Mayor Steve Ly, and Council Members Steve Detrick, Pat Hume and Darren Suen learn from the example of Mrs. Alred and extend that respect to your constituents and staff. 

If that does not sink in, watch the Oscar-winning movie "In the Heat of the Night" and maybe you will understand the importance of using formal titles when addressing members of the public or city staff during a government meeting. We all deserve at least that measure of respect before we are run off after our three minutes lapse. 

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Connie said...

There is a definite caste system regarding how speakers are treated when they approach the podium to speak at Elk Grove City Council meetings. Some are addressed using the formal title of Mr. or Ms. Many are not, and even worse, some are treated with disdain.

Then there is the special treatment: If a particular Council member wants everyone to know the speaker, in many cases a large contributor is a “good friend,” they are called by their first name and we have to hear about their “special friendship.” The puffed-up pronouncement usually sends up a red flag that a quid pro quo is on the way. (Quite frankly, I would think the contributor would be embarrassed to be singled out this way because connecting the dots is always so easy – a trip to the City Clerk’s page, a look at a 460 and there it is!)

And certainly members of the public are also treated differently. Everyone should be treated the same, no matter what they have to say. The Council needs to be reminded that if a speaker just wants to stand at the podium for three minutes in silent protest they are allowed to do so – and have!

There is even a law that gives every citizen the right to public dissent, a law the Elk Grove City Council has violated many times, as noted by the Sacramento County Grand Jury, “This profound national commitment, as applied to a city council, is codified in California in Government Code section 54954.3(c): “The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body.”

Great movie, EGN: And another movie along the same lines starring the remarkable Sidney Poitier, “To Sir With Love.”

Anonymous said...

What do you expect from just another hick valley town.

Anonymous said...

Something I have noticed many times when speakers are addressing the City Council is some having their heads down, reading something. This gives the impression you are not listening or care what the speaker has to say. I've always wondered why the speaker didn't pause and wait for the council member/members to finish what they were doing, perhaps even ask if there is a better time for them to address the council when they had time to listen. It appears to the people to be very rude and disrespectful.

The Mad Hatter said...

Anon 16:31 - what you are seeing is the council members texting or in the case of Gary Davis, going on Twitter when something passes. I seem to recall while the meeting was still going on, the Mayor took to Twitter announcing the recent incentive for the prison health authority. So yes, they are texting home to get the drinks ready, or shaking down contributors sitting in the audience. They are doing anything put paying attention to people during their 3 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Now this is a NEW ONE for me. Mr. Ly is "appointed" Vice-Mayor and now a dinner is being held in celebration. A private photography following him around and now a dinner in celebration is being held. What has this city become? Mr. Ly, you're not the first council member to be appointed Vice-Mayor, but the only one who has ever had a public celebration dinner advertised on Facebook. You need to get a life...it's not all about you!


Connie said...

To Anon at 16:31:

Those of us sitting in back of council chambers often noticed Council members with their heads down appearing to be reading their binder or on their cell phone during public comment. And something was often said.

Worse was when a speaker was called up to the podium, a Council member would look at them and get up and leave the dais. While it didn’t bother some – they took as a badge of honor, it did bother me. Circa 2008, when former Council member Michael Leary did it to me, I said pointing, “I hope the voters notice how easily Mr. Leary gives up his seat!”

Another time, former City Attorney Anthony Manzanetti went up to Leary to speak to him just as I was called up for public comment. The two of them continued talking, so I stopped what I was saying and said, “I will wait because whatever Mr. Manzanetti and Mr. Leary are talking about appears to be much more important.”

So yes, we have tried, and many of us have brought the disrespect to the Council’s attention. Unfortunately to this day, it still continues. I don’t have the answer except to say we need to constantly point it out as it is occurring.

Anonymous said...

This steaming dumpster fire of suburban sprawl is basically a hick valley town that grew way too fast.

Anonymous said...

I agree but at the same time Mike needs to get off the stage at the end of his 3 minutes. A few meetings ago they had to call a recess because he wouldn't leave the podium. Class goes both ways.

Connie said...

I sat in the same chair for over 10 years, never missing a council meeting.

The “usual suspects” were often in the role of encouraging first time attendees who didn’t know the process and we would explain it to them.

My biggest pet peeve: When a resident of this city makes the time to drive to city hall, fill out a blue slip to speak on a subject important to them, waits sometimes for hours for their name to be called, it is the Council’s duty to listen to them. We often heard how nervous people were when speaking for the first time. Those of us in the back would encourage them that it is their democratic right and they would be just fine.

And finally, when they are called up, a head or two goes down and the result – and this may even be the same for the seasoned speakers such as Mike Monaky and Lynn Wheat – is that they know they were being ignored. I know I was ignored, that is, unless we had camera crews show up unannounced – and then the Council sat up all pretty!

Whenever any of us speak on something very important, all we want to know is that we are being heard.

Are members of the Elk Grove City Council active engaged listeners? I don’t believe that is occurring and why so many would say to us on their way out, “I will never be back!”

Anonymous said...

How true Connie...many of us have a very hard time speaking at a council meeting in the first place and then when it appears you are not being heard or being acknowledged makes it very difficult. I have seen this happening at our council meetings for some time and it's time for it to stop. When this happens speakers should stop their speaking until all of the council members are tuned in and the clock restarts.

Geez, are their social skills so lacking? It's the polite thing to do. Perhaps we should start using puppets as we did when teaching our children to focus.

No new taxes said...

But it's election time now, so they will be rolling out the food truck events, hot dog giveaways, park clean-ups, food bank fund raisers, neighborhood crime meetings, small business talkathons, you nake it. They need us now!

Spoons and Forks said...

To All Elk Grove City Council Members, please leave your phone
behind! Listen to the people!

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