Potential televised work sessions create tension

Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW — Councilwoman Lynn Blanchette didn’t hold back Jan. 19 when telling newest Councilman Bill Towle how she felt.

Blanchette made a motion to remove Towle as the alternate for the 27th District Court board. The council realized they hadn’t had an alternate in the past when they voted Towle in as the second in November. At the opinion of the city attorney, Blanchette opted to correct the mistake.

After the vote to remove him, which Towle didn’t contest, he saw the opportunity to again lobby for televised study and budget sessions.

“At the last study session I asked council to consider having the study sessions, budget review meetings, and auditors review of the year financial statement televised,” Towle said. “That request was rejected. Not one of the council members provided a reasonable explanation as to why they were opposed to televising these meetings.

“They seem to imply that this might somehow prevent them from openly expressing their position on issues, but I personally believe it’s because of the behavior displayed by some councilmen at those meetings.”

The study sessions are where the day-to-day city business is discussed.

“If these meetings were televised it would show the level of cooperation that exists between council members and the level of oversight by each council member when approving the decisions made by our administrators,” Towle said.

Towle said the meetings elaborate on plans of spending revenue and would offer residents who can’t attend such meetings better understanding of the city’s financial situation, citing that Trenton and Southgate televise their meetings.

“Blanchette indicated at a prior meeting that we are the most transparent city in the Downriver area,” Towle said at the council’s regular meeting Jan. 19. “She went on to suggest that we are like the cellophane of transparency, but she too opposed televising these sessions.

“Apparently she not aware of what other Downriver communities are doing to be more transparent or she wouldn’t have made such an erroneous comment.”

Either Blanchette was already angry with Towle or the statement struck a nerve.

Blanchette asked City Administrator Todd Drysdale if records were open to the public, and he said they were. Towle verified they were, saying he has spent money on buying them before he became a councilman. He was hoping for a way residents could access them without spending a lot of money.

“The transparency that I spoke of seems to set well with the residents,” Blanchette said citing few complaints. “The only thing that’s really transparent, other than this body and our administrative staff is the vindictiveness and the despicable actions of the newly appointed, regrettably, councilperson.”

“I don’t think my actions are despicable,” Towle said.

“Yeah, they are,” Blanchette immediately responded.

Mayor Andrew Swift attempted to calm tempers.

“I personally feel it would stifle creativity,” he said about having such meetings televised. “That’s really where we do get down to brass tacks.

“You say something on television and people take it as the Gospel. So I think it would prohibit open discussion.”

Swift said the meetings mimic the council meetings in some ways, “only not as calm.”

The mayor said that maybe when the council members can work better together, televising the budget and study sessions may be an option. But he won’t support it now.

Councilman James Trombley agreed.

Yet, Elmer Trombley piped in saying he’s been on the council for almost 35 years and the residents are satisfied with the way things are, saying that somebody new isn’t going to come in and change things up.

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at dstreporter@gmail.com.)