Sunday, March 25, 2007

What It’s Like To Be A City Councilmember 24/7

So yesterday (Saturday), I was pulling out of a parking lot onto Santa Clara Street after going to the Farmer’s Market downtown when another driver – another Prius driver -- jammed me by entering from Santa Clara via the “Exit” driveway that I was using. He was talking on his cell phone at the time.

For one moment, I dropped the public face of an elected official and turned into an Average Joe. Annoyed, I rolled my window down and said, “This is an exit. OK? This is an exit!”

“OK, Councilman,” the driver responded curtly.


I have to admit that I drove away thinking, “Well, there’s one voter I’ve lost.” But then I couldn’t help but wonder what that really means. If you’re elected to the City Council, do you forfeit your right to get irritated or annoyed or express other natural human emotions in public – no matter what anybody else says or does? After all, the guy cut me off by turning into a clearly marked Exit driveway.

My answer to this question, in a word, is: Yes. As representatives elected by our constituents, we have an obligation to do our best to be courteous to everybody in public all the time. We also have a responsibility to be respectful of everybody’s point of view and, if we disagree with them, be thoughtful and patient in discussion with them. This can be pretty confining at times, and nobody – least of all me – can be successful in doing this every single time. But when we run for office, we have to accept the fact that we have a different relationship to other people in town because we not just their friends and neighbors but their elected representatives.

So, I’m sorry that I was short-tempered on Saturday. No matter whether I think the guy cut me off or not, dressing him down probably didn’t do anybody any good.

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