after a change in format to county commissioner meetings.
A small group of meeting stalwarts protested after Chairman Fred Messerle
moved 'public comments" from the end of the meeting -- its traditional position
-- to the beginning.
The change includes a roughly three-minute limit for each speaker, which
Messerle said was common among Oregon counties.
The decision follows two recent meetings that ran roughly five hours, largely
due to heightened public attendance. The influx of participation is largely a
result of discussion items on controversial issues, like the Bandon Marsh
expansion, and the attendance of commissioner candidates, who are stumping
before May's primary election.
Phil Thompson, a camera operator for public-access television, opposed the
changes because people could no longer give their opinions after the day's
decisions. He said the move had overtones of Nazi -style suppression of free
Ronnie Herne of Fairview called the decisions 'anti-public." She thought it
would hurt Messerle in the forthcoming primary election.
'If there's a lesson to be learned from Hitler," Herne said. 'The lesson is
you don't do it weeks before your primary, you do it after your election."
Rob Taylor of Bandon, addressing Herne and others, said as long as citizens
could comment, he didn't mind whether the public was allowed to comment at the
beginning, middle, or end of a meeting.
'I certainly don't think this rises to the standard of calling anybody
Hitler, stormtroopers, or Nazis," Taylor said.
Mary Geddry, a blogger and meeting regular, said she didn't mind the change
as long as the public could still comment on agenda items that required a vote
from the commissioners.
Commissioner Cam Parry said he thought the change was sensible because it
allowed people to raise issues at the beginning of the meeting that could be
discussed further by the commissioners.
Commissioner Bob Main, who was chairman before Messerle took the reins this
year, said he saw no problems with the previous format.
Reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or