Last nights Vancouver City Council Meeting might not have seen the fireworks of the previous week, but it was spirited. Council Chambers were filled to capacity, as they were expected to be, many in attendance to call for the ouster of embattled Council Member, Jeanne ‘gavel down’ Harris.
If you recall, Harris suffered yet another meltdown at the September 13 council meeting, lambasting citizens and fellow council member, Jeanne Stewart, covered HERE, HERE and HERE.
As expressed earlier by the Mayor, in response to allegations from fellow Council members, an “Ethics Committee” was formed last evening to “investigate” charges of violating the Charter of the Council by Ms. Harris. Mayor Leavitt appointed Council Members, Larry Smith, Jack Burkman and Pat Campbell to sit on the panel.
Mayor Leavitt asked for approval to excuse Ms. Harris’s absence from council meetings while she is travelling “on a privately-funded John Jay McCloy fellowship through the International Council of National League of Cities to travel Germany with city leaders from around the United States.” It was said last evening she is acting as a “Goodwill Ambassador” for Vancouver while travelling. It received unanimous approval.
After her meltdown last week, I cannot think of a poorer position for her to fill.
The Columbian has also brought out that Ms. Harris “is going through a very difficult divorce” which is absolutely no defense for her offensive conduct towards others. As someone holding a degree in communication, if Ms. Harris’s private life interferes in her public capacity in such a manner, she should know that she should either ask for a leave of absence or voluntarily step down from the council an allow someone to sit in who would be capable of properly performing to job.
Also of concern is a previously undisclosed email Harris sent out to council members, shortly after she issued her questionable “public apology” last week. According to the Columbian’s Andrea Damewood, Harris sent out an email to fellow council members saying,
“Looks like I’ve lost two policies and we’ve received numerous rude phone calls that my 19 year old customer service rep has had to listen to. Apparently the gavel incident is now on utube (sic). Thanks for making my life hell.”
No, Ms. Harris, no one has “made your life hell” but you and your offensive conduct. Blaming others, or even a divorce, doesn’t excuse or justify anything. Your poor overbearing conduct towards others is not new nor is it a one-time event. Many others have gone through much worse and did not find the need to attack others as you have done for so long.
Twenty eight citizens spoke last evening during Citizen’s Communication and for the most part, were well-received in Harris’s absence.24 of whom spoke on the issue of either Light Rail or Ms. Harris’s conduct. Of the 24, two were in support of light rail being extended to from Portland to Vancouver and only one person, tax happy Democratic state legislator Jim Moeller, defending Ms. Harris. 21 citizens spoke against the addition of light rail and/or Ms. Harris.
Of somewhat concern to me was seeing a Police Officer hovering around at the back of council chambers. Although I cannot attend every council meeting, this was the first time I have seen council call in an armed Police Officer for council meetings.
A query to council on the necessity of his presence brought a response from council member Smith of
“Lately, we have posted an officer for security reasons. We have no security measures at city hall like the court house. There has been no threats on Councilmembers and the crowd that has shown up has been excellent. With unemployment very high and folks stressed out coupled with a shooting in Fruit Valley by VPD, we have posted an officer to protect us all. Someone could target City Hall as an easy hit and to make a point over a city issue such as budget cuts. It is a difficult time for many folks. You never know; and I would like us to be proactive.”
However laughter erupted when a citizen, Ralph Peabody, thanked the council for the Police presence to “protect citizens from the city council.”
City Council candidate John Jenkins and County Commission candidate Alan Svehaug spoke in favor of protecting citizens’ free speech before the city council and opposing Harris’s outbursts.
The ethics panel will first meet to decide how many meetings are to be scheduled to investigate Ms. Harris’s outrageous behavior and to recommend what action, if any, is due her. The Columbian’s John Laird has said she is due a “harsh reprimand,” which I feel is way too lenient considering her history of such outbursts.
From what I hear around town, nothing short of her expulsion from the city council will do.
Jeanne Harris has become an embarrassment to the city of Vancouver, Washington. Citizens’ comments last evening reflected our concern not only over her conduct, but the inaction of fellow council members to curtail her outbursts against fellow council members and citizens’. That she was allowed to act as she did during the September 13 council meeting and not one person, other than Jeanne Stewart, spoke up to her is as embarrassing as well.
It is the job of the Mayor to oversee and conduct council meetings on a professional manner and he failed in that regard. No one interceded to calm her down or remind her she is but a representative of the people she is lambasting. No one, other than Jeanne Stewart, stood up for the citizens’ right to address council in grievance.
As I commented on John Laird’s Sunday column,
“Council isn’t elected to dictate to the public, but to represent us. How are they able to represent citizens if they refuse to listen and instead, impose the views of a majority of 7 people on some 170,000?
That is not representative governance.
Most people, left or right, are civil until they see their voices are being ignored. When government at any level so flagrantly ignores the citizens, we cease to be ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’.”
The time has come to ‘gavel down’ Vancouver City Council Member Jeanne Harris.
UPDATE: Vancouver City Council Ethics Panel Decision HERE