City Hall arrogance
It was hard to miss the smirks on the faces of several Montpelier City Council members as they voted to ignore the concerns of the Design Review Committee and install a sign identifying Montpelier City Hall as “Montpelier City Hall.” The unanimous vote was both unnecessarily hasty and bad governance.
Unnecessarily hasty because the landmark building has stood for a century without need of a sign; the onset of cold weather will make it impossible to use the adhesive that will hold the letters to the granite plinth over the entry; and it might have been useful, informative and productive for council members to discuss their differences with the Design Review Committee.
Bad governance because by imposing their opinions — which they obviously considered unquestionable and unchallengeable — over the Design Review Committee’s concerns, the council showed disregard for the process of government and disregard and disrespect for a city-authorized, council-appointed regulatory body. To his credit, Mayor Hollar suggested that the council delay action until it had an opportunity to discuss the proposed sign with the Design Review Committee. The suggestion was immediately dismissed by a motion to authorize the controversial sign, and voted upon without discussion. Alas, no one on the council had the wit, willingness or foresight to table the motion.
Did any council member consider that by summarily overruling the Design Review Committee they undermined its authority and respect? Did any council member consider for a moment that now any business or property owner inside or outside the historic district might feel similarly entitled to disregard the guidelines and procedures of design review? Did anyone consider the implications of this action for the authority of other city commissions and committees?
We can only hope that the council will retreat from its destructive and arrogant position long enough to engage in conversation with the Design Review Committee and that, if we must have a sign over City Hall, it will conform to our community-sanctioned guidelines and procedures.
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