Joanna Allhand’s Blog-
There seem to be two schools of thought about Chandler Councilman Jeff Weninger’s e-mailed video messages, and both are wrong.
Weninger uses the videos to explain his votes and talk about upcoming issues. Some have suggested that’s overkill, that Weninger should just give his opinions at the time he casts his votes.
I agree that it’s important to explain why you are or aren’t supporting a measure during council meetings. Such discussion rounds out minutes and gives people months or years from now a better idea of the thought process that drove the decision.
But Weninger is smart to realize that not everybody has the time or interest to watch meetings or comb through minutes. A short synopsis delivered to people’s inboxes could get a lot more of them interested in what’s happening in Chandler.
Others have charged that Weninger’s messages are spreading misinformation. I’ve watched most of them, and I’ve never heard him blatantly misstate facts. He shares opinions, so of course, some might disagree with those. But that’s the beauty of the videos — which, as it says in big, bold letters on each message, are produced without public money. They provide an unfiltered view of the councilman, a personal connection to what often are impersonal-sounding city matters.
Every mayor and councilman should have some venue for sharing their ideas and opinions with busy residents, be it a blog, Twitter account, Facebook page or video. They could do wonders for the Southeast Valley’s generally anemic level of civic engagement.
But I also think it would be a mistake to subsidize these venues with public money.
I’m not saying the mayor and council shouldn’t make regular appearances on cable Channel 11, or that the city shouldn’t tweet recent council decisions. Both could be great ways to share information.
I just think that if council members have a particular agenda they’d like to share, they should do it on their own time and with their own money, like Weninger is doing.
Monday, December 28, 2009 at 10:25 AM
I must begin this column by pointing out that I do not know Chandler City Councilman and restaurateur Jeff Weninger personally. In the interest of full disclosure I should add, though, that I did have an email exchange with him about three years ago in which I asked him (and everyone running for council at the time) his favorite pizza topping. His response was “jalapeno.” But I don’t think this qualifies as knowing him personally.
So, with that out of the way, I can now tell you that I think I love Jeff Weninger. No, I don’t love him in a romantic sort of way, but rather like a kid loves a favorite baseball player.
My feelings towards Councilman Weninger have sort of crept up on me. Initially, I was lukewarm on the guy. First there was the email I mentioned above, in which he casually admitted to defiling his pizza with jalapenos, and then there was an incident the next year in which he refused to serve a little leaguer a sandwich that contained sprouts because, as he put it, “that’s a girl’s lunch.”
So, it is with some surprise that over the past couple of years, whenever Weninger is quoted in the paper regarding some council matter, I find myself thinking, “You go, Jeff! Be the voice of reason!”
Before I get myself into trouble, I should probably pause here to say that I actually like all of our council members. And, in fact, I do happen to know a couple of them personally (although not Weninger, as I painstakingly pointed out earlier.)
But the thing that has made Weninger so darn lovable to me is that it is obvious that he bases all of his decisions on nothing more than common sense. In fact, I’m convinced that for every issue he must ask himself, “Is this dumb?” and then base his voting decision accordingly.
For example, two years ago, Weninger was the lone council member to vote against spending $100,000 on a sculpture of a tumbleweed to be placed in a park-and-ride lot. When the sculpture was erected he said, “You just gotta look at it and say, ‘Is that really worth $100,000?”
Time and again Weninger takes this kind of everyman stance and I find myself rooting for him like he was the little guy in the Rudy. And now it looks like he will have to do it again.
It seems that the city has decided that we need to make our downtown more pedestrian friendly (side note—it already is) by reducing the number of lanes for cars and adding bike lanes and larger sidewalks. While there are a gazillion things wrong with this idea, Jeff Weninger put it best when he said, “We’ve spent millions on widening the intersection of Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, making it huge, and now we’re going to narrow it down to one lane?”
Yet again Weninger is the voice of reason. Now if only he would apply his common sense thinking to his choice of pizza toppings he would really be a dreamboat.
Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 11:22 PM