Place is the issue

Published 1:07 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To the editor:

With all due respect to Mr. Hiley’s letter of Sept. 10, there is some merit to limiting the time for a citizen to make comments on agenda items at a Board of Commissioners meeting. Whether that time is three minutes, plus or minus, is not the point. Rather, the concern is that the new policy of allowing comments only at the beginning of the meeting will actually eliminate a voice by citizens on many agenda items.

If an agenda item is introduced after the 30 minutes of citizens’ comment at the beginning of the meeting, then there is no opportunity for citizens to voice their feelings on the newly introduced agenda item. This was the case at the meeting of September 8 when, after the 30 minutes of citizens’ comments, a new agenda item regarding extension of Robert Williamson’s consulting contract was added to the agenda. By adding this to the agenda after the citizens comment period the commissioners avoided any criticism of their plan. They knew well that this agenda item was already a very controversial subject, and they circumvented public criticism by slipping it in after the allowed thirty minutes citizens of commentary.

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So, Mr. Hiley’s point of limiting time for each citizen commentary has merit. However, the more important issue is that commissioners should not totally entirely eliminate citizens’ comments by slipping in agenda items after the allowed citizen comments period in the first 30 minutes of a meeting. We are a democracy (or republic), and participation of citizens by voicing their concerns and opinions on agenda items is fundamental to our rights in a democratic society.


-David Maxwell
Columbus N.C.