It was 22 years ago when I began working with WCPI radio producer Bill Zechman to hold political forums for the public.
The open forums are a great way for local residents to learn a little about the people who are on the ballot seeking election. The candidates talk, answer a few questions, and everyone goes home happy.
During one of our very early collaborations, I had the not-so-wise idea that those in attendance should be granted the privilege of asking the candidates one question. It is, after all, a democracy. Why should I sit at a table and ask all the questions? Let's give everyone a chance!
That was my logic at least. To make a long story short, it took all of one person walking to the microphone for me to realize this was an absolutely awful idea. The guy was nice enough for sure, but he rambled on about largely nothing, talked a little about his parents, never did ask a question, and sat down after wasting about five minutes of everyone's time.
That was just the first guy.
So that was a longer story than I intended, but I did want to hammer home the fact I fully understand the challenges of turning over the floor to anybody during a government meeting or public gathering. There must be rules in place to prevent local residents from babbling endlessly in front of a board. I get it.
Thinking about Monday night's Warren County Commission meeting where a guy was asked to leave because his speech had gone over his time limit of two minutes, I don't think two minutes is enough.
It's bad enough you have to call at least 13 days before the meeting just to be put on the agenda. If you jump through that hoop, then all you get is two minutes. That's not much.
I realize everyone has a busy schedule and we could all be watching Netflix instead, but there are seldom any public comments made at county meetings. Sometimes there are several meetings in a row where there are no public comments. There are no residents with pressing concerns that need to be heard by county officials.
On the occasion when there is such a thing, and the person calls at least 13 days in advance, let's give them more than two minutes. How about four, or even six minutes?
I'm sure I'm not the only one who caught the irony that it was a military veteran who was escorted out of the room. A military veteran who fought for our right for free speech was being asked to go away after two minutes of talking.
This is not to say that I agree with what the military veteran and his two friends were saying to the Warren County Commission during their two minutes.
I don't subscribe to the theory of a stolen election. And their proposed solution, counting paper ballots, seems like it would make our elections very less secure in my mind.
The point is not whether I agree or disagree with what's being said. The point is that citizens should get a little more than two minutes to complete their thoughts when addressing the Warren County Commission.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.