It is not uncommon for city, county and school board officials to put a limit on how much citizens can speak at local government meetings.
However, the elected officials themselves can drone on and on and on, about nothing that really pertains to the deliberative process.
When individuals come to a meeting prepared to do business it does not take long if they roll up their sleeves, get down to business and do the public’s business in a business-like manner.
Deliberations should absolutely take place out in the open. Government transparency demands it. The public has every right to know how their elected officials arrive at their decisions.
The problem is a great deal of time at public meetings in city and county government is spent on speechmaking rather than deliberating.
Citizens can see straight through the smoke and mirrors.
Votes on important issues are often taken very quickly, with very little public discussion about the merits of some piece of legislation, but then an official will go on and on about something that is not even being voted on during the meeting.
Public meetings are no place for campaigning.
Previously this year, one city in California saw the problem get so bad the mayor and a couple of city council members called for a limit on council member speaking times.
Now there’s an idea.
Longer meetings because of a need for detailed financial or public safety reports, or to allow for more discussions from the general public, would make for good public service. Yet meetings that last for hours so a handful of elected officials can pat themselves on the back or put their spin on how wonderful government is, are tedious and unwarranted.
To the general public, over-talking just comes off as justification and rationalization.
Then, if the media is doing its job as a public watchdog, when an official goes into “spin” cycle, it just makes the newspaper dig harder and look deeper to find out what is being justified or rationalized.
Government could steal a page from private enterprise when it comes to how to do business and do it efficiently. Business experts caution that long meetings stifle production and reduce morale.
Marathon meetings sometimes seem to be a waiting game to see if elected officials have more endurance than the public, and the press.
For a change, we have left the names out — this time.
While we believe the strongest commentary is specific and to the point, it is not our desire to embarrass anyone and we hope in this case a word to the wise will be sufficient.
Save the speeches, the platitudes and the self-promotion for your next campaign and when it comes to city and county meetings, get down to business.
— Jim Zachary