|Testimony to Pueblo City Council
Moral High Ground
December 8, 2008
Madame President Barbara Vidmar and Distinguished Council Members,
My name is Dr. Alvin Rivera. My topic is “The Moral High Ground.” I rarely talk about issues of this nature because it lends one to preaching, and no one likes to be preached to; but, I will offer the council specific ideas in a “public policy context” for taking the moral high ground.
In the Chieftain’s feature article, “Activist practices own brand of `patriotism’” (Nov. 23, 2008), the reporter wrote of comments by two city council members. I was not provided the opportunity by the reporter to respond on their specific comments, so I will now.
Council President Barbara Vidmar said, “I hope that community activists –any community activist—presents fact, not fictions.” This is a serious allegation toward any civic activist, and I believe your comments were directed specifically to me.
In my personal history of organizing and presenting testimonies, they reveal I have always intentionally presented the truth before both Houses of the U.S. Congress, Colorado and Maryland state legislatures, county and city governments, library boards and school boards in the same states. While working in Washington, D. C. for the Carter Administration, I prepared testimonies as part of a team-effort for the Assistant Secretary of Education and her Deputy in the U. S. Department of Education. Later, serving as a senior staff member for a Presidential White House Commission during the Clinton Administration, among the duties I traveled around the country receiving testimony that we prepared for Presidential staff.
Consequently, there has never, and I underline NEVER, been a reason to question the content of what I organized, prepared, and/or delivered before these distinguished governmental bodies. So, any implications, innuendos or other hearsay about what I present to this city council is without foundation, period. I hope I have made myself perfectly clear on this matter.
Also, I am concerned that this council continues to make the messenger the issue, and not the content he/she brings. To attribute, even to imply, as President Vidmar has done, that civic activists would present fictions not facts, illustrates how out of touch this council is with the real issues of real people and the problems they daily experience. I suppose if the council members were not so uptight about welcoming public opinion, they would better be able to decipher between “facts and fictions.”
Councilwoman and Vice President Vera Ortegon stated that community activists are welcome and she is “concerned that they bring forth solutions to the table.” I would dispute that citizens have been welcome and I believe they do bring possible solutions to the table.
This council has a record of cutting people off without addressing their issues, failing to respond at all to concerns raised by citizens, treating people differently as to whether or not they liked them, and rarely ever talking with the citizens to try to address their concerns. I do not call these examples of welcoming citizens to the “Public Forum.”
As for bringing forth solutions, I reviewed two years of my city council testimonies, and all of them suggest specific remedies. Most of the civic activists I know, come with suggested solutions. But, wait a minute, that’s the job of the city council anyway! That is the reason we elect city officials. Has this council forgotten its role? Please, Councilwoman Ortegon, do not use the public as a scapegoat for the council’s failure to act.
As a matter of U.S. law, even if in the heat of passion a civic activist misrepresents his/her issue, there is a long history of defense for Free Speech. In the case of New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), the Supreme Court said that an “erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate, and …it must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the breathing space that they need to survive.”
Finally, as elected officials, it is time to leave the Pueblo civic activists alone, quit using your bully pulpit as a forum to discredit them and get back to the business of city government… THIS IS THE MORAL HIGH GROUND. Thank you.
Alvin Rivera, 566-0069