Strike the sign-up sheets
I don’t think sign-up sheets for public comment portions of meetings held by government bodies are conducive to the freedom of speech and the flow of ideas and input from the citizens — essential parts of democracy.
Sign-up sheets for meetings of boards of supervisors, town councils, planning commissions and school boards are beneficial for those who attend a meeting who know exactly what they’re going to talk about before the meeting is called to order. They sign up before a meeting starts with a specific subject in mind.
Under the sign up sheet mindset, if board chairmen and mayors don’t allow members of the public to speak after the names listed on the sheets are called, they’re stifling free speech.
The sign-up sheets don’t do any good for a member of the public who thinks of an idea or subject to talk about after the meeting has begun and before the public comment process begins.
The sign-up process is inherently punitive to those who, as they listen to others speak during public comment, wish to offer a public comment in rebuttal or agreement with a speaker or group of speakers.
What’s the harm in letting people speak freely, without a certain order of who’s going to speak before another public speaker?
The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors is the latest government body to adopt such a measure. Prince Edward and Cumberland have employed such lists for many years now, though they often ask, after reading the names on the list, if anyone from the audience would like to speak.
I think that if someone has an urge to speak and they’re not on the list during public comment after hearing a board member or another public commenter speak on a topic, they should be allowed to speak.
Getting rid of these sign-up sheets is needed to have a better rapport with the public.
Jordan Miles is the managing editor of The Farmville Herald. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.