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February 10, 2010 - The philosophy "one bad kid ruins it for the whole classroom" makes a bad rule. You don't punish all the kids because one is misbehaving. Trustee Neil Wallace seems to think you should.

Wallace gave an 807-word speech at the Jan. 19 Independence Township board meeting about a newspaper and story ("Mum's the word," Jan. 13) he deems "irrelevant." However, I find it interesting the day the Clarkston News became "irrelevant" to Mr. Wallace was the day he found out the News didn't endorse his slate for the 2008 election. Eight-hundred-some words are a lot on something "irrelevant," don't you think?

Wallace said in his comments the newspaper's coverage of the township's new rule limiting residents to one agenda item per meeting "did not examine the rationale, which we (the board) have endured the entire time we've been here, the abuse of these meetings that has gone on and that drove the board to this decision."

Actually, Mr. Wallace, I did examine the rationale and here's what I came up with. There are about 47,960 residents in the Clarkston area (Independence and Springfield townships, and Clarkston), 1,203,000 residents in Oakland County, 10 million in Michigan, and 309 million in the United States. You just made a rule change because of ONE single person who has "abused the board" and with whom you disagree.

Neither our story nor our editorial "endorsed" any abuse. Instead, we offered suggestions for stricter rules or greater enforcement of existing rules. Unfortunate as it may be, Mr. Wallace, enforcement of those rules falls into the hands of the supervisor, who is the chairman of the meetings.

He also said the rule is to "prevent someone who has not been elected from commenting on every single agenda item that comes before this board."

Pardon me, but it is a PUBLIC MEETING, and if members of the public whom YOU WORK FOR and are essentially YOUR BOSS want to comment on every single agenda item, they have that right to do so in a RESPECTFUL manner. Those who are not respectful should be forced to sit down. Being elected does not give the board the right to shut the people out of the conversation – that's the difference between democracy and dictatorship.

Wallace claims in the 30 years he's watched township meetings, people have never come to meetings to speak on multiple agenda items. Funny, because I've been at nearly every board meeting for the past three years and have seen him stand before the board two or three times throughout a night. Even resident and Planning Commissioner Ron Ritchie said the night of Wallace's speech, "I've not spoken many times at the meetings, but there's been nights where I have spoken two or three times."

Sure, you can change the public comment section of the agenda to allow the public to address the board on any matter including agenda items, but it's a little hard to say anything if they haven't heard the board's conversation yet.

I would like to also point out a part of the Open Meetings Act, which states "a person can be excluded from a public meeting due to a breach of the peace actually committed at the meeting," perhaps you should pursue that angle rather than limiting the majority to attempt to silence the abuse of one.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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