EDITORIAL: Public meetings a chance to be heard

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It's easy to voice opinions on social media.

All it takes is a couple of keystrokes and a click and it's out there.

But who sees that? Who takes them into consideration? Chances are, it may not be the person or entity at which they're directed. That case is true locally.

Area social media sites are filled with concerns about the spending of a local government body or questions why dollars budgeted for x aren't spent on y instead. Sometimes, these generate heated and involved discussions on the respective sites.

These posts may be cathartic to some and a way to express opinions in a setting where the majority agree or reaffirm a concern. However, these may not be seen or heard by the people who are able to affect or vote on issues.

There's one surefire way to make sure a voice is heard or a complaint is taken into consideration: show up to public meetings. City councils, school boards and boards of supervisors host regular public meetings. All carve out a time for public comment and some allow public comment on certain issues. In some cases, those entities are required to hold a public hearing and notice of such is published ahead of time. Agendas are also available on the body's website, in local media or at the respective building.

If a local government organization is doing its job properly, agenda items should never be a surprise to the public and the public should be well aware of what's on the agenda at least a day before the meeting, if not more.

Unfortunately, a lot of these meetings are often done in front of empty chairs. Recently, no public voice was given at the budget hearings for the Blair City Council and the Blair School Board.

Going forward, if you see an agenda item that you have questions about, express them to the board at the meeting or contact them individually. In most cases, they've studied the issue and considered it heavily before casting a vote. They know the ins-and-outs of an issue. Or if you're just curious about something, show up, listen and educate yourself before taking to social media.

No matter the issue, meetings allow the public the chance to listen and respond to those who make the decision.  

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