The White Springs Town Council and Mayor Spencer Lofton shouldn’t be so eager to rid the town meetings of the public.
As a public body, the council members should instead be eager to hear from those people that elected them into office.
The residents shouldn’t be viewed as mere spectators who are allowed to watch the council do the town’s business.
That business is the people’s business.
There is no legal right to speak at the meetings, and no strict requirements for how public comments at meetings should be handled.
But who benefits when the public’s voice is suppressed?
Not the town. And definitely not the residents.
At the Sept. 11 council meeting, Lofton declared during one contentious portion of the meeting, “I sat here and listened to everyone of you, with the exception of the audience.”
Why does Lofton — or any elected official — not want to hear from the public?
Then, when residents tried to comment on agenda items or ask questions, Lofton had them removed from the meeting.
Elected officials should care and care deeply about and want to hear from their constituents.
Asking a question on an item is not a disruption.
It also shouldn’t be the basis for being kicked out of a town meeting.
Trying to add insight on a topic the council is discussing is not being disruptive or be grounds for being removed from town hall.
But it appears to us that Lofton views the residents of White Springs as just an audience, someone to be seen and not heard from.
“We afforded them the opportunity to speak,” Lofton told councilwoman Helen Miller during the meeting. “They elected you as an elected representative to represent them. Their voice is being put out to them.”
The public also elected him. And the other three council members.
But that is not where their voice should end.
Lofton claimed at the end of the meeting he doesn’t want to remove members of the public from the meeting room.
We urge him to follow through and let the public be involved and be heard.