Over the last couple years I've attended many Plan Commission sessions. Throughout personnel changes I've seen the commissioners, despite the long hours that Chris correctly notes, generally show patience, courtesy, genuine intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to a better Evanston. Personal civility has generally been extended both to the public and to other commissioners.
Meanwhile, large issues with large consequences are at stake, creating pressure in a context where there's not enough time to absorb every fact, no possibility of being 100% certain about future effects. It'd be unnatural if from time to time passion didn't surface. In fact, I'd be concerned if it didn't, because we are making real decisions that will affect real lives.
From time to time we all show we are human. Smart people with strong feelings can and will disagree, and when that happens, especially when people feel they've been gamed, or disrespected, sometimes we won't be on our best behavior, even in a public setting. The Commission flareup last week was notable because it was unusual. It paled besides shouting matches and discourtesy we've witnessed in Chicago's City Council recently or even our own in years past. We are at a far cry from the frequent walkouts seen in the Texas legislature, let alone more acrimonious events, such as when Congressman Preston Brooks, on this week in 1856, beat Senator Charles Sumner unconscious with a cane on the floor of the Capitol.
The Plan Commission is not broken. It serves a valuable function of non-lobbied hearing, and is intended to and does provide a counterpoint to elected aldermen who have to be concerned with many matters other than planning. No one likes to be bullied, and perhaps now that a majority of the Commission knows what it feels like to be on the short end of a split, the talents evident amongst the body can be employed to achieve greater consensus.