Of course this was no surprise.
Sarasota County School Board members Shirley Brown, Tom Edwards and Jane Goodwin last week voted in favor of new policies that will make it more difficult for their bosses and customers (i.e., voters and taxpayers) to speak at school board meetings.
This shows how they place themselves above the people they allegedly serve, the people who pay them and the people who elected them to work on the people’s behalf. It shows how they see themselves as the elite rulers and masters who lord over the peon servants and how they place what they do as more important than listening to the people.
Brown, Edwards and Goodwin have been arguing and will defend their arrogance as merely crafting rules to allow the board to conduct its business “in an orderly, efficient and dignified manner.”
They also say the new rules are to avoid school district staff members from being subjected to sitting through long hours of public comment.
That is laughable and absurd. Uh, isn’t that part of doing their jobs?
When adopted, the new policies will create two public comment segments at board meetings. The first would allow the public to comment on items on the meeting agenda, which makes sense. The second segment would be for general, non-agenda comments; they would be permitted at the end of the meeting — when everyone is itching to bolt.
Uh-huh. Good plan. Put public comments at the caboose of a long train. Few people will have the time or patience to sit through an entire meeting not knowing exactly when his or her time will come.
If the three autocratic board members wanted to show their respect for the people they serve, they would make it easier and more convenient for the public to comment. They easily could create time-certain portions of their meetings for public comment so people would know exactly when they need to be present.
But no, you know those school board members have so much important business to address they can’t be bothered by mouthy parents.
We understand and agree there should be decorum. But c’mon. The board’s policies will state:
- “Members of the public shall not display signs, posters, placards, flags or political paraphernalia in the School Board meeting room.”
- And: “[C]heering and jeering … are prohibited.”
Ah, to heck with free speech. It’s such an annoyance.
Finally, there will be time limits. This one really gets us. In the future, if more than 30 people want to address the board, the speakers will be allotted two minutes, not three; or the chair can limit total speaking time to an hour.
Three-minute limits are anti-democratic to begin with. Cutting the time to two minutes is worse and wrong. If more than 30 people want to speak, that typically means the issue is of high importance. While Democrats harp that every vote sould be counted, likewise every speaker should be heard. That is democracy.
All of these proposed changes add up to arrogance and evidence that Brown, Edwards and Goodwin are out of touch with the people they serve.
We know they won’t, but if they were true public servants, they would toss these proposed changes for public comments in trash bin of bad public policy.