Our View: Modesto council member needs to have thicker skin

January 13, 2014 

We hope Jenny Kenoyer’s skin has grown a little thicker over the past seven days. The Modesto city councilwoman was clearly irate after hearing from a lot of people who don’t want the city to include Wood Colony on the general plan update. She resented that some people – after sitting four hours in the basement chamber – expressed their disgruntlement by calling out as council members tried to explain why they favored the plan.

“I do not appreciate the fact that you cannot follow our rules,” said an angry Kenoyer. “If you have children in school and they have rules to follow, it’s not because we’re mean ... it’s because it’s what the rules are.” Then she stepped over the line entirely, saying, “If you don’t like to have these rules, then I suggest that you watch it on television.”

That’s not how democracy works. The City Council chamber is not a classroom, and Kenoyer is not a schoolmarm. When people are angry, they have every right to attend meetings and express themselves. The meeting went on for hours, not because people enjoyed being there but because they feel their homes and way of life are being threatened. They’re angry and touchy.

Yes, it’s understandable that council members would be biting their lips as that anger was directed at them. But it’s up to council members to recognize that people who come to the podium can feel alone and intimidated. Nine people are looking down on them; those nine have all the power. It takes moxie to speak your mind.

That said, a couple of speakers should have had better manners. The speaker who compared City Council members to the guards of Auschwitz was being, to put it bluntly, asinine. Another called Mayor Garrad Marsh “a puppet” of the Chamber of Commerce.

Marsh actually thanked the speaker as he walked away from the podium. Councilman Dave Cogdill Jr. thanked everyone for staying through the “long night.” That’s how these meetings should be handled.

When the council reconvenes tonight, there is nothing remotely as controversial as the Wood Colony general plan inclusion or the Marketplace approval on the agenda, so it is unlikely sparks will fly. If they do, we hope all members of the council remain cool and respond accordingly.

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