Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Board trifles with public comment at its peril

The issues and challenges facing the Manatee County School Board are many and have been well chronicled.
The budget.
Teacher's salaries.
Standardized test scores.
You name it.
But trying to change its policy regarding the public comment portion of its meetings?
Oh, yeah.
Serious enough to make it an item on a to-do list for not one but possibly two consulting firms the board is considering hiring to help it update board policies and procedures.
Our tax dollars at work.
That school board members feel an urgency to do something about the public comment portion at its meetings makes you continue to wonder about its priorities.
Good grief.
If this is truly that much of a concern, they've got way too much time on their hands.
Or they really don't get it when it comes to understanding why the community perceives them as really out of touch.
This is a non-issue.
Can the public comment portion use some tweaking?
The usual time limit for speakers is three minutes which is fair.
The digital clock overhead is there for a reason.
As for school board member Barbara Harvey's suggestion enabling senior staffers to address matters brought up by speakers, that  makes sense, though I thought they did it already.
But any move to severely limit or even eliminate public comment would be a huge mistake.
This whole business smacks of the school board trying to stifle its constituency.
School board attorney James Dye's statement that time spent on public comments is time not spent on other agenda items suggests the former is not as important as the latter.
Well, the public's right to speak is just as important, if not moreso.
"It is the opportunity to share concerns about education," said school board member Dave Miner, who used that platform regularly before being elected.
The school board works for the public and serves at its pleasure, not the other way around.
Does it really need to be reminded of that?
Wait until elections.

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