Friday, November 14, 2008

EDITORIAL: Why not respond to questions at meetings?

NewsLanc received the following Letter to the Editor: "Is there a particular course or curriculum that local leaders, be they appointed, elected, or just with their heads in the public trough, attend to prepare for PUBLIC meetings where they repeat over and over again: 'this meeting is for public COMMENT, not questions'."

If the public is not permitted to question officials, then how are they to be held accountable?

Another obstacle is scheduling the comment period at the outset of the agenda and refusing further public participation.

When Art Morris took over the Convention Center Authority, he further allowed public commentary after issues had been moved and board members had concluded their discussions but before voting. The County Commissioners do the same.

Time limitations on public comments are justifiable. If officials have questions, the discussion can continue.

Often the comments and questions from the audience are highly constructive. An example was how an observer's comments about the folly of purchasing additional electronic voting machines with verifiable paper trails lead to a reversal of the county commissioners' decision at a subsequent meeting.

If we gag those with expertise on specific issues, how can we expect optimal decisions from our elected officials and their apointees?