Statement before the Glenn A. Walsh
Asset District: Telephone: 412-561-7876
Public Comment Electronic Mail: < firstname.lastname@example.org >
Limitations at Internet Site: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
RAD Board Meetings 2007 April 30
Good evening. I am Glenn A.
Today’s agenda includes consideration of adding a 24-hour registration notice to your current public comment policy. Although adding such a notice is in
compliance with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, adding such a notice will not solve the problem you, apparently, are trying to solve.
The main problem with your current policy is the allocation of only 15 minutes for public comments. At three minutes per speaker, this only allows five county residents,
in a county with a population of more than 1.2 million, to speak at any one meeting!
In the past, I have commented to the staff that I believe that this policy is in violation of the spirit of the Sunshine Act. And, considering that people register on the
speakers’ list on a first-come, first-served basis, if a speaker is denied the opportunity to speak due to this policy, and that speaker wishes to comment on a matter that
you will vote on that evening, then you would be in violation of the letter-of-the-law! And, since people reading your policy on-line are not guaranteed they can speak,
this discourages them from even trying to participate!
It seems the reason for this policy is to prevent delays in the meeting agenda—despite the fact that the “Public hearing and comment period” is part of the agenda! I could
be wrong, but it seems that this policy was instituted shortly after I, and ten other members of Friends of the Zeiss, testified on August 27, 2001 in opposition to a
Children’s Museum request for $4 million in RAD capital funding.
This delayed the beginning of that evening’s annual budget hearings and meant that certain “high-profile” civic leaders, such as then-Carnegie Institute
President Ellsworth Brown, had to wait longer. So, I understand the problem that you were trying to solve, but my response to that problem is: welcome to democracy!
This problem is no different from the problem City Council has to deal with weekly and County Council and other municipal councils have to deal with monthly. They
do not try to find some way to limit public comment. They simply listen to everyone who wants to make a public comment, before proceeding with the rest of the agenda.
Your Public Comment Policy also says, that for people who cannot fit into the fifteen minutes, “the Board may either extend the time or schedule the remaining speakers to
appear first during the next public comment period.” So, if the time is not extended, these people have to wait a month—often longer since you do not meet every month?
Will these people then crowd-out people who want to comment at the next meeting?
About ten years ago, the Pennsylvania General Assembly purposely changed the Sunshine Act, so that public comments at the end of public meetings were no longer
practically meaningless. The General Assembly wanted all public bodies to listen and pay attention to what the public had to say.
A lot of the time, I am the only one who even speaks. However, on the rather rare occasions when some hot-button issue brings out several people to speak, it is in
your best interests to listen to each of them—even if budget hearings are delayed. A 24-hour notification should not be instituted and the 15-minute comment period
limitation should be rescinded.