When City Hall in Watertown was built in the 1960s, it had some good design features. One was the juxtaposition of the police, the courtroom and the holding cells. This gave the building security; it gave the public easy access to the police; and there wasn’t the daily parade of defendants through the lobby after being let off at the door where everyone else enters for dog licenses, marriages or to pay a water bill.
The regional Public Safety Building quashed most of the convenience. And now I read of a sad proposal to trash history by decomissioning the City Council chambers and moving its activities to the first floor courtroom.
Aside from the logistics, do we set up folding tables in front of the judge’s bench on Monday evenings? What of tradition?
For 20 years, I had the honor and pleasure of presiding over meetings in the third floor chambers under the watchful eyes of all the other mayors whose photos are on the wall. The brass rendition of the City Seal donated by Rande Richardson hung behind us, and in the air was the tradition of generations of citizens and elected officials meeting to resolve the issues of their times.
Now it seems, the City Council and the legislative function are devalued and made an afterthought. Members of the council need to say no and assert their role in governing. Candidates for office should do the same.
Jeffrey E. Graham
The writer is a former mayor of the city of Watertown.