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Salmon resident Dave Gusky used a June 1 City Council Public Comment opportunity to adamantly criticize a published announcement of an upcoming council work session.

The work session is to hear and discuss the Salmon Whitewater Park Association’s response to questions asked by the public and by the many federal agencies which are tasked with whether or not to approve constructing the park in the Salmon River. The agencies let it be known during a February 29 meeting that future maintenance is of primary concern and local opponents fear liability issues for the city in the event of recreationist accidents.

It was stated in the published announcement, written by City Clerk Mary Benton, that the work session was open to the public but not open for public input. It was to ‘not open for public input’ that Gusky directed his comments saying, “This is a democracy guys. We can talk. We can add ideas. Some ideas keep you guys out of trouble.” He said that by not allowing public input the city had burned bridges on both ends.

He also advised the council to expect some unkind editorials from him in the newspaper.

In her public comment, Benton further explained that the purpose of any work session is for the council to informally discuss the information gathered to date, which in this case includes whatever information has been gathered by the Whitewater Association. Benton said allowing public comment at a work session is very seldom done and that the public comment opportunity provided by this council during its council meetings is an exception not the norm. There are now two public comment periods during Salmon City Council meetings and she said her recommendation would be to limit that to one.

When the public comment portion of the meeting ended, Councilman Russ Chinske made a motion to amend the evening’s agenda to include some comments he wished to make. The motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote. He used the added time to follow the step by step process of a representative democracy beginning with people voting for whom they want to run the government. He said as City Councilmen they have been voted into office to make decisions for the people. He said, “What happens next is that when we have a thing like a work session we get together as representatives of the city, who are voted in through the democratic process, and we have a discussion about certain things.”

Chinske said his own personal vision for this current process is that the council, as the elected representative body, does its job by collecting all the information. That information will then be presented to the public. Once presented there will be an actual public hearing where people can express their opinions. Chinske said to have the entire public at every work session would be a cumbersome process which is why the representative democracy, or republic, exists.

Councilman Neal James added that no official decisions are legally allowed to be made during work sessions. He said formal decisions have to be made during regular council meetings. He reiterated the June 7th meeting with the Whitewater Association is to just gather information.

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