EDITORIAL: Invite public input at public meetings

2013-05-03T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Invite public input at public meetings nwitimes.com
May 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Curiously, Indiana law doesn't require a public comment period at public meetings of government boards. But don't take that as a license to ignore the public.

Janice Malchow, a new member of the Lake Central School Board, wants to discuss the board's policy on public input at meetings.

Currently, the board's policy has been to listen to the public after all the official business has already been conducted. Audience members sign up before then to ask questions or make comments.

By the time the public has a chance to comment, though, it's too late to influence the board's decision.

"Multiple people come to me and say, 'How do they make decisions without public comment?' That is not well received by the public," Malchow said at the start of this week's discussion.

Board members Howard Marshall, John DeVries and Don Basko said they don't want meetings bogged down by a public exchange before every vote, as happened decades ago.

"If the community has concerns, they can email us or phone us. We don't hide. They surely can get to us before a board meeting," Marshall said.

But that leaves out the person who might be a little annoyed and show up at a meeting to give the board a piece of her mind. Ignore her, and you've turned an irritated person into an irate person.

The Lake Central School Board should do not just what's legal, but also what's right when it comes to public comment. Don't just allow it, which isn't technically required, but also invite it.

Sure, there will be people who drone on, but remember that they're the public, and the board is doing the public's business.

Well-informed members of the public whose viewpoints are heard have more confidence in, and support for, their government. That's a good lesson for not just Lake Central but also other units of government as well.

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