After several months of talking to themselves and coming up with all manner of creative ways to the discuss the Belfast Yards project, the Belfast City Council received a rude awakening Nov. 29 when residents made it abundantly clear that they wanted no part of the council’s plans for the waterfront parcel, which currently serves as a well-used parking lot.

During the last few months, city councilors have held several meetings on the issue, and while those have been public meetings, no one from the public has really participated in the conversation. This vacuum left city councilors with the freedom to spend what ultimately was a lot of wasted time discussing their own pet plans and projects for Belfast Yards.

During one of those sessions, they walked around their chambers, placing stickers on various pieces of paper mounted around the room to outline “their” priorities. This elementary school exercise gave city employees an idea of where the council was, but no knowledge of the city’s position.

At its Nov. 29 meeting, the council provided handouts for those in attendance that focused on five major points the council had come up with during its several months of discussing the topic. Interestingly, though, members of the public in attendance — who included area business leaders and members of city committees — basically ignored the five talking points and made it very clear they had no interest in developing the waterfront property, except possibly for maritime-related uses.

As city officials, the councilors and the mayor should remember who they work for. Early in the process they should have scheduled a public meeting of the type held on Nov. 29. Doing so would have eliminated the massive waste of time debating issues that city residents had no interest in debating. Why the need for myriad meetings? Perhaps to prepare talking points to use to convince citizens? That isn’t really the council’s job, although if one ever watches City Council meetings (which we of course do), one realizes the councilors spend a lot of time in those sessions selling themselves and their plans in an almost carnival barker sort of way.

The councilors and the mayor are elected to further the will of the people, not their own individual wills. The fact that they keep being elected is not a mandate to do whatever they want; it appears more an example of voter apathy.

At this point we hope the council will follow the clear recommendations from those in attendance Nov. 29, although we do have some fears that they will follow through on their own ideas instead.

Following the public comment, while most of the council members simply thanked those in attendance for providing their views, Councilor Mike Hurley made a point of trying to contest many of the points brought forward by the residents. At one point, he even seemed to suggest that the city should do something with the property because in the future another City Council might make a terrible decision regarding the parcel. He then proceeded to outline several times where the city has made bad decisions in the past.

We do not think that a history of your bad decisions is a good argument for being allowed to make another bad decision now.

During the council’s Dec. 6 meeting, while the issue of Belfast Yards was not on the agenda, several councilors said, in effect, that they would take the residents’ positions under advisement. Honestly, there isn’t much left to discuss. The consensus opinion is clearly to leave well enough alone.

The people have spoken. We hope the City Council actually decides to listen.