Friday, 09 March 2012 00:00We spend many evenings each week covering local meetings —- village boards, school board, library board, park board, civic associations and more —- and at almost every meeting we hear local officials asking for “public input” on weighty or controversial matters. Especially at public hearings, the comments from members of the public are a vital, and also a legal necessity. It is incumbent upon boards to ask for public comment and they should do so whether or not a formal public hearing is required. When a mayor or a president of a board asks for “public input” this is a serious request.
We urge members of the public to attend public meetings, to learn what is happening and to respond with educated comments. The only way a public board can know what the public wants, indeed what is right for the community, is by hearing what they want firsthand. Knowledge of public opinion, much research, legal advice and lengthy discussions are what should guide public boards to their decisions. So, if you don’t speak up, no one will know what is best for you and all you will have left is an unhappy situation and a bunch of complaints.
And, yes, we definitely do see many instances where a board will change plans as the result of public input. Our public schools’ board of education is a prime example. Nothing is ever written in stone there. Strong, well-reasoned public statements most certainly help the board of education form opinions. Just look at the recent school calendar issue! Sound, reasonable public comments helped the superintendent and the school board come to a decision pleasing to all. And time and again, we see the school board revise draft policies as they go through a lengthy public hearing process. Public input is always requested and always, always very important. What you have to say quite visibly makes a difference in our schools.
So, please, take the time to learn what is going on around you. Keep up with boards that affect your life and the lives of your family and friends. Attend meetings and speak up. You can make a difference. We all can.
- Wendy Karpel Kreitzman