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OUR VIEW: Citizens may now speak at county board meetings

St. Croix County elected officials have taken the step of opening up their meetings to comments from the public.

Members of the general public generally have no right to spout off about anything during official meetings of the St. Croix County Board. If elected officials wanted to, discussion about agenda items and non-agenda items could be limited to county supervisors only.

But with a change in its bylaws and board rules in April, the county board and its standing committees have thrown the door open to folks who want to talk about anything on their minds.

It's a frightening thing, really. Unscripted open forums can lead to messy meetings. Even if speakers are only allowed three minutes to express their opinions, three minutes can be a long time when it's not something officials want to hear.

Give county supervisors credit. A public comment section during each meeting's agenda is, for the most part, a good thing. People, no matter what their beef or suggestion, can no longer complain that their voice isn't heard.

Many levels of government, especially at the local level, have included some form of this process for quite some time. It's good to see the county level incorporate a similar process

On some occasions, what the public has to say is something that elected officials need to hear. And sometimes the average voter can come up with an idea that makes a lot of sense and should be acted upon.

As is typical of most local governmental units, the county's new public comment period only deals with issues that are not on the board's or committee's agenda. If you attend an upcoming meeting of the county board or a committee, you will have a chance to stand and be heard.

The public can still comment or ask questions during the meeting, if they are first recognized by the supervisor who represents them. Non-residents must be recognized by the county board chairperson before they can speak about an item on the agenda.

Our hope is that the public is given full ability to be involved in the debate, whether the topic is on the agenda or not. It may get a little uncomfortable at times, but a true democratic system of local government provides opportunities for "we the people" to offer our thoughts.

County supervisors should be applauded for listening to what the public has to say.