The mayor’s Transit Solutions Team presented its final recommendations to City Council on Monday.
When Councilwoman Brandy Williams asked whether anyone on the team tried to get around the city using only the bus system as part of their research, Chairman Robert Shonkwiler refused to answer the question.
“I was asked to do this by the mayor, and there weren’t any qualifications that I had to do that,” Shonkwiler responded.
“And frankly, our recommendations stand where they are, and personal questions about what I do or don’t do, I think, is my business,” he said.
When Williams said she wasn’t meddling in his personal business, Shonkwiler she was.
“I don’t think you’ve got any right to ask me that question, and I respectfully decline to answer. It’s none of your business,” he said.
Williams didn’t engage Shonkwiler from the dais, but she said Tuesday that she was “taken aback” by his reaction to her question.
“I thought it was disrespectful,” she said.
“I definitely did not expect that kind of reaction, not in my wildest dreams.”
Reaction from Williams’ colleagues has been mixed.
“Shonkwiler is one of the brightest minds in the public policy debate. To call him out was very disrespectful and is another reason we cannot get more community involvement. Private citizens won’t put up with the brain damage,” Councilman Tim Leigh wrote on Facebook.
“‘Brightest minds in the public policy debate’” — gimme a break,” responded Councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko. “According to whom and displayed when Tim? Also, an expert in Boulder does not make an expert in Colorado Springs.”
But Czelatdko said council members “should just listen and say thank you” when community volunteers give of their time to provide reports and recommendations to council.
“We shouldn’t question, debate, point out disagreements, etc. until a recommendation comes forward needing a vote. Nobody who has sat on a committee and given their time and attention to a subject wants it picked apart or criticized. I’ve seen my colleagues do that several times and so I can understand the defensiveness and irritation. I think things could have been handled better on both sides,” she wrote.
Councilman Bernie Herpin said it boiled down to respect.
“It’s not whether or not he used public transportation. It was his reply that was uncalled for. All he had to say was, ‘No I haven’t, but I had experience in Boulder…’” Herpin wrote.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s council meeting, Council President Scott Hente said Shonkwiler’s response “unfortunately” was “not in keeping with the civility and the decorum” expected at council meetings and then he apologized to Williams because he didn’t say anything Monday.
“That sort of instant will not happen again,” Hente said.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Leigh said if anyone should be apologizing, it should be Williams.
“Someone should ask her if she’s sold a hospital before,” Leigh said, referring to Williams being one of two council liaisons to the Memorial Health System negotiating team.
“If there’s an apology to be made, I think it should come from her to him because if there’s anybody who’s doing on-the-job training, it’s Brandy,” Leigh said.
Here’s video of Shonkwiler telling Williams that her question was none of her business: