Have you ever read the comments on a Twitter thread?
You read this great piece and start scrolling through the replies but instead of a dialogue — you see hateful, vile comments, attacking the tweet or even another user.
It ruins the experience of being part of the conversation. Who wants to chime in if someone is just going to yell at you?
This is what the Fort Worth City Council is struggling with — online commenters in real life.
Most noticeably in the last recent months, City Council has had a frustrating time getting some citizens to adhere to already existing rules for presentations and not use curses, abusive language or yelling to get their point across.
The current rules for most public hearings involves time limits and a “decorum” for the room, like speaking to the agenda or speaking in a respectful manner.
The Fort Worth City Council is mulling over limiting the speaking time for a delegation of 10 people to help curtail the problem. One proposal would cut a delegation’s time from 10 minutes to five. Individuals’ speaking time of three minutes would remain unchanged.
Having less time for a group to state their concerns doesn’t solve the problem. If they were going to use foul language in a 10-minute window, they most likely would in a five-minute one.
The problem is not unique to City Hall. Members of Congress don’t want to have town halls because of safety reasons. School board meetings are derailed by angry parents. Local governmental meetings are filled with spectacle caused by impassioned citizens or ones seeking a viral video.
It’s difficult to balance the responsibility of listening to citizens with maintaining order. But balance is needed on the other side too. Sometimes the frustration at feeling you are not being heard builds up into something loud and bold.
So what is the City Council to do?
Being punitive isn’t the answer, but neither is allowing more abusive, destructive behavior. Communication is the better avenue of dealing with angry citizens.
Most want to be heard, really heard, and sometimes city council meetings don’t create an atmosphere for that.
But the citizens are not without blame.
Screaming and yelling at the governmental body during a meeting might feel beneficial — cathartic even — but what good does it do if you don’t scream and yell at the ballot box?
Dozens showed up to voice their opinions about the transgender guidelines at FWISD school board meetings. But as few as 1,900 voters cast ballots to elect current board members.
That’s when you should make impassioned speeches — during the election cycle and the voting period.
Both sides of the gavel need to pick better avenues of communication. City Council should go to the citizens and have more in-depth conversation with some of these individuals and in turn, citizens need to adhere to respect for their elected official.
If you don’t like what someone is doing in an elected office, don’t berate them — vote in the next election for a change.