At the regular April meeting of the City Council, we had on our agenda an item we thought was completely uncontroversial: a new stop sign. As it happened, that issue was not nearly as simple as we’d thought. A citizen spoke at the meeting and asked us to not make the proposed change, which would have made the intersection of Barnes and Shepherd streets into a four-way stop. Currently there are stop signs only on Barnes.
The Council chose to delay action so we might all have a chance to personally revisit the intersection once more before voting. We returned to the issue with a public hearing as part of our next regular meeting on May 14th. The same citizen addressed the Council, and Alderpersons spoke on both sides of the issue. Once everyone had their say and we voted, the tally was three votes in favor of the change, and four against. I think the result of our vote says more about the Council than it does that particular issue.
Split votes are relatively uncommon. Our meetings are often the political equivalent of a rock tumbler. We’ll turn an issue over and over until dissent has worn away the rough edges and what remains is generally something we can all support. Watching that process can be very gratifying. I think it shows we’re more interested in getting it right as a group than in always being right as individuals.
Even with all our discussions, we don’t always arrive at a place where we all agree. Here, too, this vote was informative. The proposal was defeated, but there were no hard feelings or bent noses. We stayed focused on issues instead of personalities, and on resolving problems instead of feeding egos. I’m proud to serve with people who can disagree without being disagreeable. That cooperative spirit helps keep us moving forward and will serve us well as we face future challenges.