Monday, August 8, 2011

Isn't There A Middle Way?

Today's Argus Leader reports that the Sioux Falls district will be conducting two additional budget information meetings.
After receiving no public input last spring despite increasing the property tax freeze opt-out and making $2 million in program cuts, Superintendent Pam Homan has added two public information sessions to the school board's budget adoption process.
Homan presented the change to a receptive school board last week, saying she wanted to "achieve greater public participation."
One would have thought that the acrimony that arose in Yankton during that opt out effort would have citizens in every southeastern South Dakota community attending budget meetings.  The Yankton County Observer contained a blow by blow report of the July 11 Yankton School Board meeting that illustrates that the effects linger.  Unfortunately, the report is behind a pay wall.

Openness is welcome, but I am a little disconcerted by the Oprah-zation of the Sioux Falls process.
Like the meetings that are held when the board is considering changing school boundaries, Homan said the informational budget meetings will be informal. Board members will attend but not sit at the head of the room, which should encourage people to ask questions.
Speaking as an introvert, I'm much more comfortable standing behind a podium and giving a quick speech than I am sitting around a table trying to get a word in whenever more garrulous folk  pose for breath.

I guess I'm a democratic romantic--please note the lower case--who thinks people should care about the issues in their communities and express their concerns without distorting facts or using vitriolic language.  If that minimum level of civility is present, everyone should able to handle standing behind a podium and face a few people sitting behind a table.

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