Running A Better Public Meeting

If public participation is a goal, local government should work harder to make public hearings more user-friendly.

"The vague and lackadaisical way that public meetings are often conducted can frustrate anyone who watches local government at work.

When commissions or councils vote, citizens can be left in the dark as to what the vote was about and why board members voted the way they did.

That is sloppy democracy."

"The City Council in Venice, Florida, to its credit, set aside time at its annual Strategic Planning Session this spring to make a list of ways to improve its meetings.

As mundane as that might sound, many public officials throughout the region -- as well as their constituents -- might benefit if Venice's to-do list became standard operating procedure. Some local boards already observe these practices, but too many of them do not.

Among the common-sense items are:

Explain the issue to the audience: When making land-use decisions, in particular, elected boards frequently rush the issue to a vote with little or no explanation to the public. Again, explain it in clear terms."

Full Story: A primer on public meetings

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