Robert's Rules Radio Soap Opera

Pledge drives drive me to other radio stations. Say it louder: Pledge drives drive me to other radio stations. I can't hear you! Hey, Public Radio! PLEDGE DRIVES DRIVE ME TO OTHER STATIONS!

Dear Terry Gross,

I enjoy your program, Fresh Air. I can only listen to it on Wednesdays. The trouble is, KERA had so many pledge drives that I started listening to the Dallas City Council meetings on WRR,101.1 fm on Wednesday mornings.

The City Council meetings, held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month, are broadcast live from 9:00 A.M. through their conclusion if earlier than 6:00 P.M., or through 6:00 P.M. (subject to change).

Terry, I love that Dallas Mayor Laura Miller knows her Robert's Rules of Order, or at least has a good parliamentarian by her side. Robert's is the K-Y Jelly of business meetings :

Why is parliamentary procedure important? It is important because it's a time tested method of conducting business at meetings and public gatherings. It can be adapted to fit the needs of any organization. Today, Robert's Rules of Order newly revised is the basic handbook of operation for most organizations from congresses to clubs, so it's important that everyone know these basic rules.

Even if only a few of the people in attendance at a meeting actually understand the intricacies of parliamentary procedure, everyone is reassured that there is an underlying structure for the meeting. If there's structure, then everyone feels safer. They sense they will have a chance to speak without interruption, and without fear of personal attack. They sense the presence of a civilizing force and generally try to live up to it. Church boards, student organizations, Model United Nations , babysitting co-ops, and parent-teacher organizations all use Robert's Rules with success in my personal experience.

Maybe because people listen and watch so many programs with confrontational styles of interviews and panel discussions, they expect and behave with that style at meetings of all types. Lately the U. S. House of Representatives has gotten pretty close to a Jerry Springer Show segment. Then we have the splendid example of Dick Cheney presiding as president of the Senate offering barnyard anatomically impossible suggestions to Patrick Leahy. The Dallas City Council meetings could easily cross into that pattern if it weren't for the strong parliamentary structure. Instead of everyone yelling obscenities at once, order allows each participant to sound as knowledgeable, foolish, self-serving, or arrogant as they really are at the microphone. That the mike occasionally picks up the Mayor's muttered asides is just gravy. It's good radio drama and comedy.

I don't vote or even live in Dallas. I just listen for the entertainment value, Terry. It's so much more fun than a pledge drive.

Wish my condo association would practice a little Oil of Robert's to smooth the meetings. As soon as the president erroneously asks for a motion to call the meeting to order, I get a gavel-pounding headache. After that, all pretense of structure falls away. People ages 25-93 imitate Dick Cheney over earth-shaking issues of pooper-scooping and tree-trimming.

If you don't hunker down in a secret vice presidential bunker somewhere, but need to live in the world with other humans, parliamentary procedure is one of the most useful foreign languages you can pick up. There are dummy and idiot guides at the bookstore. You can get a quick guide to chairing a meeting or more detailed instructions on-line. Maybe there are even audio lessons for learning while you drive!

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