Source: Sherman Publications

How else is the public going to get information?

September 22, 2010

Dear Editor,

In a recent e-mail to the Brandon Township Board, Supervisor Kathy Thurman directs members to follow a procedure she hopes will limit discussion.

She quotes an old “code of conduct” item reminiscent of high school that suggests board members become informed, attempt to resolve conflicts, and ask questions in advance.

She concludes, “…. our meetings will end sooner.” This is a worthy goal, to have efficient meetings.

But is efficient meetings her goal, or something else? Is the goal to get out of the public eye sooner, to end our public discourse sooner? To squash dissent sooner? To avoid uncomfortable questions sooner? To push through a single- minded agenda sooner?

This isn’t the first time Thurman has tried to suppress members’ questions. In an open meeting in July this year, she directed board members to stop asking questions during meetings and come with answers already in hand. “I ask questions whether I know the answer or not, in order to inform the public about how and why we are voting. I will always ask questions,” one member replied.

How else is the public going to get information? How are all viewpoints to be represented? Are all the citizens supposed to see at the meeting or on cable, the motions, the vote, the passing of resolutions already decided on before the meeting? Heavens knows the meeting minutes are bare outlines.

Do we want a passive and well-behaved board?

Do we want important decisions made in a back room? Or do we want a transparent, vigorous and sometime raucous debate that brings light to our issues?

Do we value well-timed and short meetings over enlightened citizens and an active, robust board?

I don’t know what part of democracy is served by concealing discussions behind closed doors.

Bonnie Beltramo

Brandon Twp.