Editorial: How to Get Thrown Out of a Public Meeting
Left, Whiting resident Reid Rocheleau has been tossed out of several city & school board meetings for his inappropriate behavior. (City-Times photo)
By Patrick Lynn
Criticizing elected officials is nothing new. In many ways it’s a part of our country’s heritage, and the public should hold their elected representatives accountable when they step out of line or vote against the wishes of the constituency.
But there’s a time and a place for it. Political cartoons have for over 200 years taken public leaders to task, and public objection is common during public meetings at the school board, city and county levels. It’s our way of telling our elected representatives we don’t like what they’re doing, and lately, it seems there’s more than enough disapproval to go around.
Case in point: a November public meeting on the Bus. 51 project yielded more questions than answers, and several residents jumped the boundaries of decorum by screaming a level of vulgarities not often heard outside the Southpark Movie, also accusing local officials of being dirty.
Is the City-Times staff naïve enough to believe there are no “dirty” deals made in the Stevens Point Area? No, and you shouldn’t be, either. Yet believing something and proving it are two entirely different things. Be cautious with your accusations and do your homework before heading up to that podium to speak at a public meeting, because your words will live forever on video and in the public records of the school district, the city and the county. Imagine how your words will be received by your children, grandchildren and neighbors as well as our local officials.
Cursing and screaming will not earn a sympathetic ear, but they sure will be you booted from a meeting, sometimes with a police escort. Interrupting the meeting is also a great way to be kicked out, but instead of becoming a martyr for your cause you look a fool and your argument- however valid- loses all credibility.
Publicly lodging a protest- far more common than lodging compliments- isn’t always an option for some. It could be a fear of public speaking, a desire for anonymity or perhaps a lack of confidence in knowing enough about an issue to speak to it. If that’s the case, you can always submit an open letter to the City-Times Open Letter section, or you could contact your local officials directly in the privacy of an email or phone call.