Once again your school board is considering ways to shut you up. They are making another run at limiting your ability to bring up topics during public comment, as well as limiting the total amount of time that can be given over to public comment.
Here is the relevant part of the proposed policy:
1. During the “Delegations and Individuals” section of each Board meeting
residents may comment for up to three minutes (unless waived by the
Board) by completing a comment card and submitting it to the recording
secretary at the beginning of the meeting. Total public comment shall be
limited to 15 minutes at the discretion of the Board Chair.
1.2.Members of the public may offer comments on agenda items only. The Board
will not entertain comments on items that do not appear on the agenda.
Requests to address items not on the agenda must be presented to the
Superintendent and must set forth the specifics of the subject to be addressed.
When appropriate, the Board may place such requests on the agenda.
This proposal is as ironic as it is threatening. I say ironic because public comment is rarely exercised at our meetings. There are no eager hoards waiting in line to speak for 3 minutes to the cardboard cutouts propped up behind the table. It is threatening because this policy is designed to limit what parents and citizens can bring before the board.
Restricting speech to just what is on the agenda is breathtakingly arrogant and deeply unresponsive to the people all board members have been elected to serve. If you harbor hopes of getting an issue on the agenda, let me disabuse you right now. Unpopular board members can’t get even the most burning issues from their towns on the agenda. No member of the public has a hope.
Furthermore, don’t you find it odd that your school board would give the superintendent authority to decide what issues are allowed onto the agenda from the public? What do you suppose your chance would be to discuss at public comment, oh let’s say, Mrs. Metzler’s employment with Achieve 3000, with a policy like this?
Should this policy be accepted, your school board is sticking its fingers firmly in its ears, closing its eyes and giving you a raspberry. Let’s hope your elected officials have the sense to reject this policy (again) and rebuke the administration and Policy Committee for repeatedly putting it forward.
UPDATE NOV. 19, 2016: At the Nov. 17th board meeting the board voted 7-1 in favor of sending the policy back to Policy Committee. Mr. Bealo was the only vote in favor of limiting speech. (As he’s quipped before, that’s why he’s called “Chairman Bealo,” as in Chairman Mao.) This is a positive development but the best result would have been for the board to completely reject any changes to the current policy and tell the Policy Committee it is off limits.