COMMENTARY | Honorable Commissioners, and our Chair in particular:
I listened to Rush Limbaugh for nearly 20 years. I am done. He finally went too far while attacking a woman, and then gave her a back-handed apology.
But I also stopped listening because I hear his tactics and philosophy used every week in this meeting. I hear people attacking people instead of arguments or institutional problems. I hear personal attacks against you, speaking over your heads to the people, and angry outbursts. I stopped listening to Rush because I no longer get useful information and because such talk is contagious; I catch myself thinking the same way.
You have the same right to stop listening to people you don’t want to hear. You have made it perfectly clear, over the last few months, that we don’t have any right to speak in these meetings. The rules on the wall say that one must be recognized by the Chair to speak; it is a privilege.
You should use your power to punish those who abuse people and do not give you useful information, while allowing the rest of us to inform you as necessary. Please do not recognize those who have a habit of abusing you and others.
One gentleman gave us an angry outburst in the last meeting and, knowing that he had gone too far, walked out before he was thrown out. But he had a point: he told you to take control of your meeting. It was only the fifth or sixth time you’d told people that we don’t applaud in public meetings.
He shouted repeatedly and you tried to shout him down. You have a gavel. It stops all argument and applause. Please use it.
Miner Dave Everest has told you that you are the Court of County Commissioners. You have the power of a judge when it comes to hearing the people and judging the issues before you. Please use your power, and the gavel that comes with it.
The normal structure and rules of a public meeting were set over many years of trial and error, and they work for both public servants and the people they serve. The changes that you have made, reducing the public to one comment each before agenda items are presented, do not work, either to give you full information or to control abusive comment. You have reduced the opportunity, but you have increased the anger and the resulting abuse. Please restore normal public meeting structure; do not recognize abusive speakers; and use your gavel as necessary to keep order.