100% All-Natural Composition
No Artificial Intelligence!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Board of Education votes to limit speakers to 5 minutes, and only 1 hour for comments

I'd planned on attending Monday night's meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Education, and would have been there had some things not arisen on this end. So there's no first-hand account this month. But the Reidsville Review already has up a story about some of what went down this time.

The board voted 8-4 to impose a time limit of 5 minutes per each person who addresses the board during the public comments portion of the meetings. Which is considerably more than the limit of 3 minutes that the board was originally considering. Elaine McCollum, Reida Drum, Nell Rose, and Nell Rose voted against the limit. Voting for it were Celeste DePriest, Ron Price, Lori McKinney, Amanda Bell, Jim Austin, Wayne Kirkman, Herman Hines and John Smith.

I suppose that 5 minutes does seem pretty reasonable. This however is not: that in addition to the 5 minutes per person, the board is also limiting public comments to one hour per meeting.

Now I wish that I had been able to be at tonight's meeting, because this was something that I was afraid might happen, although I had enough faith in the board to believe that it would be rather unlikely.

Five minutes per person, I can kind of understand. But shutting off all public comment after one hour is completely unacceptable.

Let's say that this rule was in place during the school uniforms debate. As actively a part of P.O.T.S.M.O.D. (that was the group opposing the uniforms) that I was, I would not have wanted to see one side completely dominate all the time allowed for public argument. But if this rule had been enforced during the past few months, there's no doubt in my mind that anyone who was in favor of the uniforms would have been effectively shut out from having their support become a matter of public record. That wouldn't necessarily have been a conscious effort either on the part of the uniforms opponents: naturally they would have wanted the board to hear them out. But that shouldn't come at the cost of unfairly denying the other side their fair say in the matter, either.

What this means is that at some point during a matter of contentious debate, one side or the other on an issue is going to seek to abuse this new policy by "stacking the deck" in their own favor during the public comments time of a meeting. It probably won't happen anytime soon or even in the next year or two, but it's coming. And I really don't know if allowing for the possibility of an entire meeting devoted to public comments is going to alleviate that concern.

Folks, this is laziness. It's dereliction of duty, even. Members of the Board of Education should have understood when they ran for the office that they would be called upon to make a sacrifice of time in order to carry out the duties that they were asking to take up. If they were unwilling to see that done in due fairness for all citizens, then they shouldn't have run for the seat in the first place. They should be made to stay until 3 a.m. if that's how long it takes to listen to everyone, because that's what they signed up for when they said they wanted the job. If some board members can't take this demand of their office, then they should reconsider whether they belong on the board at all.

Do I think this is, in the least bit, a lash-back against the initiative that a lot of people in the public - the ones that Ron Price referred to as "bad for the community" - took in defeating the uniforms? Not much doubt in my mind on that one, folks. I dare not say this reflects on everyone who voted for this limit tonight but there were a number of those who went in favor of this that I can't say it's a surprise to see they voted this way. They're the ones who general consensus is that they think people in the public are getting too "uppity". I've heard that from a lot of folks these past few weeks.

Well, I've seen time limits imposed from this board before, and I've seen them done away with. We'll see how long this one lasts.


qemuel said...

Here's hoping that the people of the county maintain long memories come election time, eh?

Anonymous said...

They won't. The incumbents can stay in office as long as they like and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Anonymous said...

'The incumbents can stay in office as long as they like and there's nothing anyone can do about it.'

Knock-Knock-Zoom-Zoom Affirmation if nothing else works. Ron The Con's home address is right here.

Anonymous said...

When are you going to say something about Steve Smith not attending school board meetings that he's supposed to be at?