Daily Bread for 4.12.22: Open-Session Meetings Should Always Have an Opportunity for Public Comment

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see scattered rain and thundershowers with a high of 61.  Sunrise is 6:16 AM and sunset 7:34 PM for 13h 17m 58s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 79.6% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 4:30 PM, and the city’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM

On this day in 1955, the polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, is declared safe and effective.

Last night, Whitewater’s school board met in special session.  The board held a closed session at 6 PM, and an open session beginning at 7:30 PM. A video of the open session is embedded, below.


Whitewater School Board Meeting 4.11.22 (Open Session).

The open session agenda did not include an item for public comment, but a brief opportunity for public comment was added impromptu. See Video @ 29:45. (At this meeting, the public comment was about commencement speakers, but the comment might have been on any number of subjects and been as worthy.)

A few remarks.

Whitewater Unified School District Policy 187 addresses public participation at meetings. That policy has a provision for public comment at regular meetings  187 (1) , but a different provision for special meetings 187 (2).

 Monday’s meeting was a special meeting, and the board president exercised authority under 187 (2) to permit public comment. That was the right decision, in light of Whitewater Unified School District Policy 810 on school-community relations:

The School Board believes that the public schools belong in every sense to the people, reflect the community they serve, and can never be any stronger than the public is willing and able to make them.

Meeting the needs of the community and gaining the support to meet those needs depends upon two-way communication between the Board and the public. The Board, therefore, will make every attempt to make known its plans and actions and encourages the community to make known its desires.

For open government and transparency in a situation like this, policy and law should be a floor, and not a ceiling, on public participation.

Policy 187’s distinction between public participation at regular meetings and special meetings, is, however, a mistake. Any open session of the Whitewater Unified School District should have the same robust provisions for public comment. 

There is no open meeting so special, nor any elected or appointed official so special, that he or she should not patiently listen to public comment.  

A simple principle: there should be ample opportunity for public comment at every open public meeting, every single time. 

It was the right decision to afford public comment at the 4.11.22 meeting.  It would be an even better decision to abolish Policy 187’s unjustified distinction between public comment at types of open meetings.

Dusky Wallaby Peeks Its Head Out of Mother’s Pouch:

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