Quincy Alderman Steve Duesterhaus, D-2, questioned Monday night whether the topics of the most frequent speaker during the City Council’s public forums are actually relevant to city business.
Speaker Jeff Kerkhoff, who was the only speaker during the monthly public forum Monday night, spoke to the City Council about the 225th anniversary of the Virginia Ratifying Convention. The Municipal Code says the purpose of the public forum is to allow residents “an opportunity to raise ideas, comments or concerns related to the City of Quincy before members of the City Council.”
“Where are the ideas, comments or concerns that relate to the city of Quincy in your lecture here?” Duesterhaus asked, no doubt echoing the thoughts of several elected officials on both sides of the aisle who privately question the relevance of Kerkhoff’s monthly remarks.
Kerkhoff said the City Council just discussed taxation when it rejected the Quincy Township budget.
“It also extends to local issues, as well as to national issues — the issues of taxation that Patrick Henry brought up,” he said.
Duesterhaus asked what he should take away from his presentation.
“To guard the jewel of liberty very closely and to guard the tax money really closely,” Kerkhoff said. “And I think from your discussion, that’s exactly what you did. You took Patrick Henry’s concerns to heart, because you heavily debated the issue on the township.”
Kerkhoff speaks every month during the public forum. He also speaks regularly at Quincy Park Board and Quincy School Board meetings.
In recent months he has spoken at City Council on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, the 225th anniversary of Federalist No. 84, the legacy of Ronald Reagan and newly appointed South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. It would be a stretch to consider any of those topics relevant to the city of Quincy. Every April, he speaks about the city’s budget.
The monthly public forum was introduced in 2010 after public access to the council became an issue when aldermen voted 7-6 not to suspend the rules and allow local tea party organizer Steve McQueen a chance to speak, even though McQueen had requested time on the council agenda. He was allowed to speak the following week.
Aldermen have been reluctant to confront Kerkhoff, but perhaps it’s time to make all speakers stick to local issues.