Open Discourse Should Be Allowed
Editor, News Register:
As an active participant and regular attendee of the weekly public meetings of the Belmont County Board of Commissioners, I must say that I am quite disappointed and somewhat dismayed by the less than supportive comments expressed by two of the three sitting commissioners regarding the current state of the popular “Open Public Forum” section during which those in attendance are permitted to engage in open discussion with said elected officials on relevant matters of concern.
To me, I feel strongly that such free and open discourse with public officials is essential to a transparent government that holds itself accountable to those of whom they have been designated to serve.
Such officials should perhaps keep in mind that those of us who are fortunate to attend as guests primarily do so as a result of our interest in and concern for the well being of the county in which we reside and are not compensated for our attendance, whereas the Commissioners are indeed paid for “their time,” for the record by us, the taxpayers.
Although the impressions of some may be that the Commissioner weekly public meetings are dominated and monopolized by guests’ questions and comments, making it difficult for county business to be properly and timely conducted.
However, such is not, nor ever has been the case, as the usual myriad of agenda items begin at their designated time and upon completion.
“Open Public Forum” by no means designates the Commissioners time during the meetings and with few exceptions remains relatively short, informative and reasonable.
As yet, I have never witnessed when the public discussion period has ever remotely interfered or Jeopardized the board from its conducting of county business in the least.
The accusation of guests, including myself, asking repeated questions simply does not take into account that such mainly serve as allow up questions or that concern is such that reiteration is sometimes felt needed to keep the serious nature of the original expression under consideration for further update and or review.
Stating that commissioners make themselves available for private meetings is commendable, but ignores the fact that issues that affect more than the individual asking the question should be addressed, whenever possible in a public setting in order that information secured becomes part of the “Public Record” and the general public is therely informed.
Such is simply a staple of open government and the democratic process and should not be discouraged.
I commend Commissioner Favede for her stated support for the ensuring of the continuation and the maintenance of public discourse as an integral part of their weekly meetings.
Those public officials who seem to have developed an aversion for public, “on the record” interaction, should perhaps keep in mind that we, Belmont County residents are their constituents, not their subjects.
“Open Public Forum, ” as it currently exists has been an integral part of Belmont County Commissioners meeting. For decades and has proven to be quite informative and beneficial to the local citizenry and should continue in its present format, unshaved indefinitely.