When elected officials attend community meetings, they’re customarily willing to publicly answer questions from their constituents. That is apparently not the case in District 1.
The West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND) has been the organized voice of West Anaheim residents for decades. Earlier this month, Esther Wallace, WAND’s long-time president, invited District 1 Councilmember Denise Barnes to speak at the group’s final meeting of the year.
Barnes replied that she “can speak privately with the people” but not publicly, saying she didn’t “want to politicize my position.”
That’s an unusual position, to say the least. Barnes’ council colleagues frequently appear before groups of residents, providing updates, giving their views and publicly answering questions from residents – often in contentious circumstances. It’s difficult to understand how engaging in such a basic exercise of representative democracy constitutes “politicizing” an elected officials position. That’s a recipe for clamming up and avoiding a pubic dialogue with citizens.
If a constituent has a question, Councilmember Barnes either has an answer or she doesn’t; if the latter, she can look into the matter and follow-up with a response. If an Anaheim resident wants to know her position on a city matter or policy question, why shouldn’t she give a public answer instead of restricting that information to one-on-one conversations. Citizens reasonably expect that their councilmembers can and will publicly take and answer questions from the electorate.