Daily Bread for 1.23.23: The Practicality of Public (and Official) Comment

Good morning.

Monday  in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 32. Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:56 PM for 9h 39m 52s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 4.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Urban Forestry Commission meets at 4:30 PM and Downtown Whitewater, Inc.’s Board of Directors meets at 6 PM. The Whitewater School Board goes into closed session shortly after 6 PM, and returns to open session at 7 PM

 On this day in 1957, American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison sells the rights to his flying disc to the Wham-O toy company, which later renames it the “Frisbee.”

Karin Brulliard reports Free speech or out of order? As meetings grow wild, officials try to tame public comment:

A school board meeting in Greeley, Colo., kicked off this month with a newly restrictive public comment policy — the fourth iteration in a year marked by such vitriol over masks and books that one member suggested suspending comment altogether. Two opportunities for citizens to address the board for a total of four minutes had already been slimmed to one three-minute chance per person. Now speakers would have two minutes each.

In Rochester, Minn., where public comment at city council meetings has featured personal attacks on the mayor and baseless accusations about the library promoting pedophilia, speakers since October have been permitted to comment just once a month — and the board is considering further restrictions.

And in Salem, Ore., the school board in September closed meetings to the public and began taking comments by Zoom or phone or in writing, following what the superintendent called an “escalation of disruptive behavior” that had turned in-person comment into a “public forum for political agendas.”

Obvious point: These schools aren’t promoting ‘pedophilia.’ Groups saying as much baselessly against individuals invite liability.  

And yet, and yet, more speech is generally better than less (absent defamation), as a right and as a practicality. Leaving aside for now the greater issue of rights, one can still consider practicality. It’s more useful for an understanding of others to allow them to talk.

Although Brulliard’s story is about public comment, there’s an equal practicality in hearing what officials have to say. Often, elected and appointed city officials will go on in a candid way about their views of past and present in the city. That candor is valuable (if telling). So valuable, in fact, it’s nearly priceless. Most people, including most officials, speak revealingly if they speak more than a little. Guile becomes guileless quickly.

It’s advantageous to let someone keep talking.  

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Shows Off New Skills:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
13 days ago

Wholeheartedly agree. While some sense of order and decorum is certainly favorable, not everyone has the same manner of speaking or thought preparation. To not allow for any divergence from a rigid time protocol is the exact opposite of promoting public input.

Perhaps public bodies would do better to find a way to communicate expectation(no defamation for instance, no threats) than to continually restrict time. A lack of involvement in decisions being made by public bodies all but guarantees the decisions won’t be in the best interest of communities they serve.