Boards should err on the side of open discussion in meetings | News, Sports, Jobs

Two stories in Tuesday’s edition of the Post-Journal indicate that a tightrope is walked in the rooms where decisions are made.

Lisa Yaggie, now a former Central Southwest School District board member, resigned after five years because, she says, she was not allowed to express her views and opinions on the issues facing the district.

“I like to talk about difficult problems” she says. “I think that was interpreted as more disrespectful than healthy conversation, and that’s certainly not good for a school board, so I thought it was time to step aside.”

Chautauqua County lawmakers, meanwhile, ended their last voting session before the second speaking privilege, a time that allows county residents to speak on items not on the agenda of the meeting of the legislature. During the second privilege of the February meeting, a group of county residents presented lawmakers with a copy of Robert F. Kennedy’s “The real Anthony Fauci” then read the chapters of the book.

Stopping debate and discussion is a tightrope, as we noted above. In Yaggie’s case, the talks positively impacted the Southwestern Central School District by hosting a public discussion on diversity and inclusion issues. It is unfortunate that she felt the need to resign because, as she said, the school board is “not a board that encourages a lot of interaction.” The other side of the coin is the Chautauqua County Legislature’s decision to end its March meeting without granting a second speaking privilege. Reading lawmakers a copy of a book is a waste of time and grandstanding at worst. Simply introducing the book with a word or two about it would certainly have sufficed. If people want to be taken seriously, they must also take the time of their legislators seriously. If residents want lawmakers to read a book, they should start a book club and invite them to attend. A legislative assembly is neither the time nor the place for such demagoguery.

How much interaction and discussion is too much or too little? In our view, the more public discussion of the issues, the better. This is something anyone elected at any level should keep in mind. The things you don’t hear may be the things you need to hear the most.

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