Red light, green light

Published 11:16 am Friday, April 1, 2016

Those who wish to speak during the citizen comment period of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors meeting have exactly three minutes to do so. The rule has been in place for years, but has not been enforced by chairman Dallas Jones, who allows speakers to finish their comments no matter how long they ramble.

At Monday evening’s meeting, Jones announced the installation of a stoplight that will warn a speaker that he or she is at their three-minute limit. Whether or not Jones will halt a citizen in the middle of their sentence is yet to be seen, though he said it will ultimately be at his discretion to do so.

While it’s easy to misinterpret the time restraint as a way to limit residents from expressing their views on issues that are important to them, the supervisors are only trying to prohibit a speaker from straying from the topic on which they initially wanted to voice their opinion.

Too many times has a person stood up to talk about a specific issue at hand and instead rambled ad infinitum about something entirely different, abusing the privileged of citizens time and dragging the meeting out. It also takes away valuable time from others who would like to share their opinion with public officials.

It’s good when the public gets involved in their local government. It’s a place where each of you have a chance to make an exaggerated difference. But, it is easy for a voice to get tuned out and ignored if its the only one heard or heard for too long, so we commend the supervisors for enforcing a rule that might lead to more varied input and more efficient meetings.