Mayor Gerry Welch said it was time to get to work at the Oct. 8 Webster Groves City Council meeting. She meant solving the zoning issue, which has caused an even deeper rift between Webster University and the city.
Since the first public hearing, the discussion has gone nowhere. However, this is not the council’s fault. Rather, the blame lies on the other side of the room: with the audience.
At the beginning of every public hearing, Welch makes the same fruitless request to the audience: “Please only speak if you have new information for the council to consider.” But at every public hearing, this request is ignored.
Both sides are heavily invested in this issue. For the residents, they see the zoning as the potential destruction of their historic neighborhoods. For those connected to the university, they see the city actively working against their needs to survive and thrive.
Despite their polarized views, both sides want to see this issue actively worked on and fully represented. But if they agree moving forward is the best course of action, they need to start helping the council — not hindering them.
Residents, this means no more long speeches about how great Webster Groves was before the university. Those invested in the university, this means no more standing in front of the council and playing the victim. Instead, let those who have relevant information be the only ones to speak to the council.
The most impressive moment from a council public forum was when Welch called University President Elizabeth Stroble to the podium to ask questions. The heads of each side exchanged information and asked simple questions, and in return they received answers. It was the most productive five minutes of any public hearing on the zoning issue.
Keep the commentary and long-winded speeches to Facebook. Leave the council chambers to those who are willing to do more, and say less.