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Our opinion: Public deserves to be heard

There are times we wonder if elected officials actually want the public to engage with them.

The latest example comes from last week’s special Warren County School District Board of Education meeting. Ten people signed up to speak during the meeting, which began late after an executive session ran 15 minutes past the meeting’s posted 8 a.m. start time.

Those who wanted to voice their concerns to the board were both in favor of and against requiring students to wear masks in school — but with an eye on the clock, board member Arthur Stewart wanted to vote before everyone had their opportunity to speak.

“We have multiple people that have to go and it’s becoming rude at this point,” he said.

That’s not the way this works, Mr. Stewart.

Even if the state has taken the decision out of local hands, local residents on both sides of the issue took time out of their busy day to come speak to the school board out of concern for their children. The board should take the time to listen to each and every one of them.

And, frankly, a one-minute time limit, as was imposed by board president Donna Zariczny, similarly may serve to move a meeting along but gives short shrift to the public — who, we may add, elected these board members to serve. How much can one really say in a minute unless they’re auditioning to be in a Micro Machines commercial?

Whether a member of the public agrees with the board’s decision or not, each and every member of the public deserves to be heard. The board should set reasonable limits, but the limits imposed last week were unreasonable — and attempting to vote before everyone had a chance to speak his or her mind is just plain rude.

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