Friday December 6, 2013
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I suppose you think that the title of this string leaves no doubt about where I stand on the school board rubber stamp issue.
The school board is doing what I see in so many Arizona boards and councils. They are complying with the letter of the law, and ignoring its intent.
So let's ask ourselves this: What is the intent of the open meeting laws?
They are intended to create a situation like this:
a. An agenda is posted in advance, allowing plenty of time for citizens to attend, to watch democracy in action, and to participate.
b. Each item on the agenda is brought up for discussion. Board members comment on the pros and cons.
c. The people present comment on the pros and cons.
d. Board members make the public aware of earlier discussions which have taken place between individual board members and between them and employees. They also pass out any memoranda which have been circulated.
e. A general discussion is held, partly consisting of reasons individual board members are leaning in a given direction.
f. After the discussion is over, the item is either voted on or tabled for further study.
Now that's what the open meetings laws were intended to create--an OPEN meeting.
We do not have that now.
Items b, d, and e do not happen. They have already happened behind closed doors.
That is not an open meeting.
That is not a rubber stamp.
That is as close to a conspiracy to keep the public out of the loop as can be managed without being dragged off and stuffed in jail.
It's not my school board; it's yours, and the question to you is simple enough.
Do you want to begin applying pressure to the school board to do these things, or do you not?
Make all interoffice memoranda concerning votable issues available to the public prior to and during board meetings.
Within reason, make the public aware of conversations which have taken place prior to a board meeting, so that the public will know and understand the reasoning behind each decision and be able to add its voice.
Have each board member make a short statement on each issue, saying why he or she supports, or does not support, each agenda item.
If you push for these things, and the board chooses to comply, then the board meetings will then become "open" in the original meaning of the term. If they are not done, the meetings may as well not be public, since the decisions are made behind closed doors whether or not it is technically legal.
I'm going to ask you to think about this: Suppose there were no such thing as an open meeting law. Suppose that board meetings were closed to the public. Picture to yourself how those meetings would go.
Is it not true that the board would meet and that the super and others would attend to help make decisons? Would the board not hear people who had some expertise concerning each issue? Would there not be an open, prolonged discussion of details, with people arguing for and against? Is it not true that after a lot of give and take there would finally be a decision?
Now, the big question. Did I not just describe what is in your mind when you hear the term "open meeting?" Isn't that what you really want? Do you have it now?
If that's what you want, you have to make a choice. You can fight for it or you can just let it go.
Your board. Your choice.
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