Hear This: Council must not ignore public input
Last week, Parkersburg City Council voted to split its public forum time — discussion of items on the agenda, near the beginning; discussion of other matters, at the end.
While Councilman John Reed is correct, the move does expand the number of opportunities for the public to address council, there is some danger in splitting the forum, and council must be careful to avoid living down to the concerns of some who were in opposition.
Members of the public who seek to address council on matters not listed on the agenda must be granted the same time, attention and consideration as those who speak during the earlier forum. At least one council member, Councilman Mike Reynolds, has already shown willingness to leave meetings before the public forum is completed, and has gone on record as saying he “will no longer be listening to people that want to talk about the non-discrimination ordinance because they have basically been taking our council meetings for hostage.”
It is not up to members of council to choose which matters they want to hear discussed, nor to which members of the public they will listen during a public forum — no matter when that forum is scheduled on the agenda.
On the other hand, Reed said he enjoys the public forums. “I could sit here all night,” he said.
Good. That is as it should be; and other council members should follow suit.
Those who seek to address their elected representatives during either public forum must know they are being heard.