Hold forums to allow public to speak ahead of Manatee County commission meetings

August 13, 2013 

Open letter to the Manatee County commission:

The Aug. 6 meeting wasn't intended to be a farce, I am sure, but ...

You anticipated a lot of people, generally pro or con regarding the Long Bar Pointe development, so you scheduled the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto. Sure enough, there were around a thousand people there, and at least 100 had signed up to speak.

The chairman said that, at three minutes a piece, that would be five hours worth (though some were scheduled for 10 minutes since they represented a particular group).

There were written and spoken suggestions about which one might speak, but would-be participants weren't prepared to speak to a restricted agenda. There were enough issues revealed in the daily Herald, all of which were vital to the commission's eventual vote.

But would those attending get a chance to speak? How many left to go home before the floor and microphone would be available to them?

Maybe all the particulars had to be wrestled by the commission, of which the general public knew very little, so the hours slowly passed. Maybe it was a mistake to "do it the way it always has been done."

But the citizens needed the opportunity to express themselves, with their own unmistakable emotion and logic. Maybe a public forum would have been called for, with so much at stake for individuals, companies, and the community at large, before the regular commission meeting and votes. But an opportunity was missed.

I've tried to avoid letting this become a nasty tirade. But neither could I think of democracy being on display. Better luck next time?!

Roy McChesney


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