It was refreshing attending a public hearing by the county commissioner’s budget committee earlier this month. The committee heard public response to a proposed 9% increase in property taxes that was later scaled back. How can a meeting on increasing property taxes be refreshing? You can comment at the bottom of this article. All comments and my replies also appear on our community forum page at http://wp.me/P5ZA8p-7h Join the conversation.
Because the committee sat patiently and listened to everyone who wanted to speak for or against the property tax increase. Yes, there was a three-minute timer on the podium. But anyone who had more to say was invited to come up again after everyone had had a first opportunity to speak.
There was no crisis. The sky didn’t fall down. Those for and against the proposal all got a chance to say everything they wanted to. Often there were pauses while the committee waited for someone to decide to speak, but there was no quick gaveling the public hearing to a close.
What a difference from the practice in the city. Evidently Murfreesboro has a speakers crisis. Some city council meetings last past 9 p.m.
Some speakers crisis! Often a public hearing is opened and closed after a couple of minutes with no one speaking. It is hard not to say the council members simply don’t want to hear from the citizens who elected them.
On the other hand, developers and other people who donated to political campaigns apparently have an unlimited amount of time to speak. Even Perry Mason would have had a hard time winning courtroom battles against DA Hamilton Burger under those rules.
In fact, you don’t have a chance to bring your concerns to the council at public meetings on most weeks. I’ve been told that oral communications are only held once a month before the TV cameras come on for the regular meeting. And then you get only three minutes. So speak fast and don’t take time to clear your throat. You’re playing Beat The Clock.
Weekly oral communications sessions are the rule at council meetings I have attended elsewhere. But who am I, an outsider, to propose such a radical idea?
That’s some way to run a Democracy. But then on some nights people waiting to speak are lined up in the council chambers, out the door and down the street. Right! Wanna buy the public fountain outside city hall?
If someone is a windbag, it is easy to cut him off. A blanket policy punishes everyone for no reason other than getting the council members home early for their favorite TV show.