Let's get engaged, Putnam County

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ask a group of newspaper journalists about things that annoy them, and you're likely to get a variety of answers -- comma splices, one-word interview responses, TV news, deadlines and people who mispronounce "picture" as "pitcher" are likely to come up.

One answer that may be even more common, though, is crowds. Of course, we reporters tend to be a social breed and we enjoy social gatherings. Crowds in general are not a problem.

But if we show up to a board meeting to an unexpectedly large crowd, we're likely to groan to ourselves.

It's not that we are not fans of an engaged citizenry -- engaging the citizenry is sort of part of our job description. It's just that a crowded meeting is not so much a sign of engagement as it is a sign of controversy and displeasure.

Big crowd at the town council meeting? Maybe water bills have been up recently.

Capacity crowd for county commissioners? People are probably unhappy with their roads.

Large turnout for school board? Perhaps someone isn't happy with the playing time on the JV field hockey team.

It's a fact of life we've come to live with: People tend to show up when they're mad.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

You don't need an ax to grind to attend a meeting. You don't even need to speak. Just come out and see what's happening. Watch your local government in action.

By a conservative estimate, the Banner Graphic covers 20 or so public meetings every month. There are probably a dozen others that don't get regular coverage.

While our staff remains committed to covering all the news that affects you, these meetings aren't just open to politicians and reporters. They are public meetings, which means they are open to all taxpayers, every single month.

Voting in your representatives every four years is a start, but there are no rules against following their actions and decisions in the meantime. You might even have a chance to take part.

Get out and get engaged, Putnam County. You have two eyes, two ears and a mouth for a reason. Your local meeting hall is the perfect place to use them.