Let’s say you are a person who is interested in an issue being presented at a Clinton County Commissioner’s meeting, and you want to attend. You do your homework, prepare your statement, get some supporters to join you. Only one problem-you can’t because you have a job. As you may know, our Clinton County Commissioners meet at 8 am on Mondays and Wednesdays. This is a time that allows retirees and the lucky few who can get off work to be a commissioner or participate in meetings, but prohibits those of us who work full-time to attend meetings.
City government is not immune to this issue. I challenge you to find the regular meeting times for the commissions that are administered by the City on the city’s website. Personally, I have ties to multiple commissions/boards, and I struggle to understand or know when these meetings are.
Several local public bodies do a much better job of getting the word out for their meetings. City Council has their meeting times readily available online for both council committees and council at large. They even post the agendas for full council meetings online the day before (and have an email list you can join for the agendas). Council meeting times give more of an opportunity for people who do work to attend. The Clinton County Regional Planning Commission has their next meeting front and center on their website, showing that there are easy ways to do it.
So why do we have so many government organizations that have the issue of inconvenient meeting times or non-posted meeting times? The former is the biggest concern. It raises questions about who these boards serve, especially for the Commissioners. These meetings should be for the benefit of the public, as we are the people who are affected by their decisions. The meeting times also prevents many working people from not only attending meetings, but potentially being a county commissioner.
It is time for us, as a community, to move forward from the days where everyone who lived here, worked here, and people were more available for public meetings during the day. We must demand that our local governmental organizations abide by the spirit of the Open Meetings Laws and accommodate the vast majority of people who are unable to attend meetings during the day. Our elected and appointed officials need to know that these meetings should be held at the public’s convenience, not their own. Wilmington will likely be putting an income tax increase on the November ballot, and citizens should know that their city is actively working to make citizens be a part of the decision making process. Hopefully, the County Commissioners will consider holding their meetings at a time that will actually allow ordinary, working citizens to attend and have their voices heard. The government must work for the people-not the other way around.