Last Tuesday, at the city council meeting, Cortney Niland told voters that she will not follow the rules set for city council meetings. Her outburst came during the discussion for agenda item number 33.1, which Niland added to the agenda, asking for council to resend its rule prohibiting the use of telephones and other devices during the meetings.
I have two problems with Cortney Niland’s stance on this issue.
The first is that one of Cortney Niland’s primary jobs, as a city council representative, is to set rules, ordinances and tax rates requiring the voters to adhere to them under penalties ranging civil to criminal. Niland sets the rules and laws that the electorate must follow. The voters do not have the right to pick-and-choose which rules, or laws to follow. Knowing that, what gives Cortney Niland the right to choose which rules she will follow and which she will ignore?
The second problem I have is that the rule prohibiting the use of electronics is not unique to city council. First and more importantly, the city council meetings are only held twice a month. Yes, that is right, twice a month. The other thing to keep in mind is that there are places where computers and smartphones are prohibited.
For example, several court houses, if not all, prohibit telephones even if you are not participating in the court proceedings. Also, you cannot accept telephone calls during a flight, whether it is a 45-minute flight or an 18-hour flight.
Her agenda item, asking for the change to the rules prohibiting electronic devices during city council meetings, failed with only Claudia Ordaz and Jim Tolbert voting with her. In response, Niland stated:
“Fair warning, I am going to have a personal device up here…if you want to kick me out…kick me out…I am not going to give up my kids for you, not for you, I will not do it.” (August 23, 2016 city council meeting at about 3:55:27)
Does that mean that Cortney Niland will also violate federal law while flying? Basically, that is what Niland is telling you, the voter, that the rules are not for her.
Both scenarios have consequences for violating them. The federal government can jail a violator. City council can assess different penalties to the violator. In the case of Niland, the rules limit her ability to remain in touch with her children for a period of time.
Cortney Niland’s argument is that she is the “sole caregiver” for her children and must remain available to them. As you know, city council meetings are on Tuesdays, a school day.
The reason that the children need to contact their mother is irrelevant because the children are at a location where there are adults present that can address any issues that may arise. Even in the worst case scenario, Niland would be contacted via the City in any emergency. Therefore, her argument about the children is a red herring.
Now, let’s talk about the hypocrisy.
“Respect and courtesy for one another to do the right thing” is how Cortney Niland characterized her request to change the rules. However, “respect” is a two-way street.
When city council listened to her pleas, deliberated and voted as a whole, the result went against Niland. An individual who “respects” the process would have moved on, although likely disappointed. Not Niland, who, instead, disrespectfully told her colleagues that it didn’t matter what they voted on, she would defy them. How is that “respectful” to the others? Better yet, does Niland believe that respect is only when she gets her way?
“I would never have taken this job had I known I had to give up” communicating with her kids is something that the electorate should remember when Niland announces that she will be running for another office in the not too distant future.
The funny thing, obviously lost in Niland, is that her fighting with Lily Limon was central to the eventual prohibition of electronic devices at the dais. Remember, it was Cortney Niland who accused Lily Limon of recording her with a smartphone during the city council meetings. It really can’t get any more hypocritical than that.