03/31/12 — Speak freely: Commissioners' meetings debate a bit of a tempest in a teapot

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Speak freely: Commissioners' meetings debate a bit of a tempest in a teapot

The discussion concerning night meetings and the Wayne County commissioners is curious.

We say that, in part because, on the surface, it sounds like a good idea -- remove the barriers between public servants and the people they serve.

Following that same line, it would seem that the Republicans who are backing the plan to move the county's meetings to the evening, and eliminating some of the requirements for speaking at a meeting, are truly trying to make it easier for community members to share their views.

But the problem is, it is really not that simple, and the move seems just a bit ingenuous.

To understand why, you have to know that some of those people these commissioners want to be able to speak are members of their own party who want to challenge a Democratic board.

And that is their right, but it is not the same thing as denying a resident the chance to speak his or her piece.

Moving meetings to the evening is not practical. That is just the way it is -- and allowing unlimited commentary is not, either. Meetings are for business. Discussions of issues are for after hours, in designated meetings for that purpose and at debates during election time.

No one is saying questions should not be asked, but there should be limits, otherwise, no business could be done. Everyone knows that just from their own workplaces and dinner tables. Sometimes, you have to cut off debate and make decisions.

But the idea is not a total loss.

Having a meeting in the evening once a month to discuss big ticket issues or constituents' concerns is a good idea. Moving it around the county is even better. And commissioners should welcome the opportunity to meet with the people they serve -- and the public should take the chance to talk about their concerns and their ideas for the future of their county.

Hate the way the commissioners handle school funding? Be there and speak up. Want to see more money spent on infrastructure? That will be your chance to say so.

And please speak up at election time. If there is an issue that you think needs to be addressed, or a public official of any government body who is not addressing the real needs of this community, speak up, ask the question and demand an answer, before you cast your vote.

The truth is, a commissioner who is not accessible to his community, and who does not bring its concerns before the board, is not doing his job, period. No amount of time in a meeting to express a viewpoint is going to fix that.

So, if you feel like you are not being heard, the best way to change that is to change the man or woman who represents you.

That is the best way for the community to be "heard."

Published in Editorials on March 31, 2012 11:41 PM