Will vote for change in November

Published 9:41pm Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To the editor:
I attended my first Polk County Commissioners’ meeting on August 4, 2014, and was quite surprised to see our local government in action. Of particular interest to me was #10 on the meeting agenda, which was a proposal by Chairman Owens, regarding “citizens’ comments.”
He had proposed a change to the current method of hearing citizens’ comments for each agenda item, as the meeting progressed. The proposal was that all citizens’ comments be heard either just before, or just after the current agenda was approved, and to either limit the comments to 30 minutes, total, or 3 minutes per citizen, with an additional provision for appointing a spokesperson for groups.
I listened to several comments on this proposed change, which made perfect sense to me; the primary case against any such change being that any comments made before the individual agenda items were discussed would be made before the citizens had any real idea of what the commissioner behind any proposal had in mind. The other line of reasoning that made me believe that it was not such a good idea to make any change was the fact that a 3-minute limit might preclude a citizen from voicing his/her opinion on multiple agenda items.
Frankly, it seemed to me that the Chair was actually attempting to reduce input from the citizenry as much as possible. There was much discussion regarding how previous meetings had gotten out of control, but I saw no evidence of that at this meeting, nor do I have any first-hand knowledge of previous meetings. But it is my feeling that this is still a Republic, where any/all citizens have a legitimate voice, whether or not it agrees with the prevailing inclination of the Board.
To suppress the views of the public is not the way our government was intended to operate. To say I was surprised when the final vote on this matter, contrary to every opinion and concern I heard voiced by concerned citizens to the contrary, was to approve the change, by a 4 – 1 vote (Commissioner Ray Gasperson being the sole dissenting vote) is an understatement.
For the majority of the Board to completely disregard the opinion of the citizens who took time out of their schedules to attend the meeting, because they care about the business of the county where they live, shows a callous indifference to the people they have been elected to serve. Any public servant might do well to remember a scene from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” James Stewart is teaching a class in American government, and he states that the United States is a Republic, which is a form of government where the people are the boss. He asks one of his students, a Swedish immigrant what that means, and she says: “That means US. And if the big shots in Washington don’t do like we want, we don’t vote for them, by golly, no more!”
I can assure you that as a result of this meeting, I will be doing what I can to see that people who are more interested in serving the public will be elected to the Board, in November.

- Susan Currier Johann, Tryon

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