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. Walsh of
as a private citizen representing no organization.
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
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.