Over 150 people attended the Jan. 13 Davis City Council meeting to take part in a public discussion of a resolution calling for peace in Gaza. The resolution called for “an immediate, durable, fully respected ceasefire” and a “lasting humanitarian truce.“
Dozens of community members who attended spoke their mind on the issue, some arguing for it and others arguing against it. This public comment session took almost four hours. In the end, the issue was referred to the city’s Human Relations Commission.
While the conflict in Gaza is an important issue worthy of discussion, it is an issue that should be discussed at a different place and time – not during a city council meeting.
The Davis City Council is the only body that can hold meetings and make decisions about the city of Davis. There are other legislative bodies (e.g. Congress) whose time can be more reasonably spent debating international relations.
While the high attendance of the meeting to discuss the topic is indicative of how many people in the Davis community are affected by the conflict, issues relating to the operation of Davis itself affect everyone in the Davis community. A planned discussion on the city’s budget deficiencies was postponed due to the lengthy discussion on the resolution.
Controversial subjects should certainly have an opportunity to be discussed in a public forum. Reasoned debate is important for a healthy community. Its place, however, should be in a setting separate from the city council. The meeting on Jan. 13 ended with the topic being referred to an outside commission, something that should have happened much sooner.
Immediately referring this issue to the commission or agreeing to hold a separate meeting with the community about the topic would have allowed for essential business to be conducted at the Jan. 13 meeting.
Changing the protocol of how the council handles controversial resolution topics such as this should be a priority, as the number of hot-button issues in the world is unlikely to decrease.