One of my readers called me Friday to complain about cell phones at City Council meetings. I always turn mine to vibrate, mainly because I’m supposed to leave it on. I admit, I’ve take a call or two from frantic editors just as the City Council’s headed into the fourth quarter of their meeting. I’ve had to slink out a side door like a criminal with a buzzing phone in my hand to whisper in the hallway.
And I know of one guy, hard of hearing, that keeps his cell phone dialed in to home constantly during the meeting. He has a family member watching it live on the local cable access channel. Since he can barely hear what’s going on at the meeting, she translates it for him over the phone. Instant live closed-captioning; He sits there and nods and says “uh huh” a lot. Pretty ingenious.
And I notice many, many people sending text messages and tweeting tweets on their iPhones or Blackberrys.
So, yeah, you see a lot of phones in council chambers.
But generally, I agree. City government might not be any more solemn than a monkey wedding in T-shirts, but important, impactful things can happen. If you’ve got something better to do, leave. Go home and watch it on cable access and do whatever you want.
But she wasn’t talking about people in the audience messing with their phones, she was upset by councilors doing it, live from the bench or whatever it is you call the fancy desk they sit at. And I had to think; and yes, I’ve seen them do it.
I have seen a few flick on their phones, absently checking their messages or doing whatever while someone is speaking. I imagine they’re taking an important message from the police chief, but they could be playing video poker for all I know. Given what’s going on in the audience, I guess I never gave it much thought.
But she’s right. They’re supposed to look like they’re thinking about what people are saying. Futzing around with their phones makes them looking congressmen, for god’s sake. They should at least pretend that they’re listening, that something their staff or their constituents say matters. They need to hang up and pay attention to what they’re doing.
I’ll even make a deal. I’ll stop putting my phone on vibrate. I’ll turn it off, completely off, if they’ll do the same.
But they won’t get me to turn off my Palm Pilot.