Citizen involvement in local government is very important and we applaud Brookings-Harbor School Board member Bruce Raleigh for questioning the board’s current practice of not accepting public comments during special meetings.
These meetings enable the board to discuss issues on which they are likely to vote at a future regular meeting. The public may attend these meetings, but officials often discourage public input because it slows down the process.
Superintendent Brian Hodge said as much during this month’s board meeting when he complained about certain citizens whose many comments take up his valuable time and that of the board. He also said opening up special meetings might expose the board to special interest groups. Besides, he added, he doesn’t see many citizens lining up to speak anyway.
These are weak excuses. Getting through a meeting quickly is not more important than citizen involvement.
We admit, there are some citizens who take advantage of the public comment part of meetings. It can be annoying and take up valuable time. But any government board with a backbone can deal efficiently yet kindly with such individuals without restricting those who play by the rules.
Most citizens are not there to be in the way, but to be part of the process. They pluck up the courage to speak publicly and should not be greeted — and dismissed — with ridicule or scorn.
Fortunately, the school board understands this and ultimately decided to allow public comment during special meetings — as long as comments pertain to items on the agenda.
To citizens wishing to express their views at any meetings we say this: Good for you! Choose your battles, and your words, wisely.