“Public participation in government business is the bedrock of American local government and should be protected, permitted, and not discouraged…”

That finding and declaration in the City of Live Oak’s resolution regarding public comment at city council meetings says it all.

Public comments — public participation — plays a role in the democratic process. It helps make sure elected representatives are accountable to their constituents.

As such, the Live Oak City Council shouldn’t overthink and complicate its public comment policy.

The city’s business is the people’s business.

If a resident or business owner attends a meeting and wants to discuss one of the agenda items, let them. Hear from them. Consider their viewpoint.

Why make the public all comment prior to any of the items on the agenda?

Sure, they may be able to address those items at that time. But they certainly don’t get to be part of the discussion or add to it.

The proposed change from Councilman Mark Stewart is quite simple and shouldn’t cause much upheaval in the procedures for the council’s meetings.

Residents still must sign up to have their voice and concerns heard at the meeting. But it allows them to choose to address the council at the start of the meeting or to be included in the discussion and the decision-making process on agenda items.

Sounds like a good plan to us.

We also agree that residents should voice their concerns with members of the council prior to the meeting. It is a good way for all involved to get a well-rounded view of the topic.

Residents should also reach out to city administration to see if a quick resolution can be brought to a situation.

However, neither of those avenues should replace public commenting at a meeting. They all tie in together.

Who benefits when the public’s voice is suppressed?

Not the town. And definitely not the residents.

So we encourage the City of Live Oak to continue to protect, permit and not discourage public participation in the city’s business and in the city’s meetings.

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