Ms Karen Lobban, President
Greenbrier County Commission
200 North Court Street Lewisburg,
Dear Ms Lobban:
Pursuant to your gracious invitation to respond to the proposed public comment protocols in detail, I offer the following. It may be somewhat lengthy, but I hope you will bear with me.
Firstly, I found Mr. McClung’s reading of the proposed protocols to be pompous, arrogant and condescending. His final rhetorical remark, “Now what’s wrong with that?” shows a uniquely cultivated facility for talking down to folks. Furthermore, in my opinion, Mr. Hanna’s commentary was in the same vein, but with a more subdued demeanor.
I object to further efforts by the County Commission to obstruct public comment. As I attempted Tuesday night, I said we are a republic in which the power rests with the people and that power is exercised by representatives elected by them. The Commissioners are not placed in office to exercise that office as a personal domain, ad libitum, but to serve the best interests of the people. If the people are cleverly and seemingly benignly restricted in their ability to address their representatives, I pause; to what end, and for how far?
Mr. McClung stated the commission is not required to have public comment. The mere stating of that fact speaks volumes of the intent of an autocrat, whether on the present commission or for a more dictatorial one on a future commission.
Two former Commissioners, Mr. Malcomb and Mr. Rose, had a citizen thrown out of a Commission meeting for asking a question they chose not to, or found inconvenient, to answer. The gentleman was respectful and polite, but was adamant to receive a response, so they threw him out of the meeting and fined him fifty dollars, and recorded a lien. Ms Tina Alvey wrote an excellent editorial for the Daily News condemning this incident. I support and believe in decorum and good manners.
Protocols 4 and 5 are open to the individual interpretation or convenient application by the commission or an individual commissioner. The terms of these protocols can be applied to the convenient expediency or “whim” of the moment.
But to question and address our government at all levels, and to question it hard, is not only a right, but a duty we acquire with exercise of freedom and liberty. To examine the beliefs,motives and actions of representatives is a good maintenance program for responsible government. Government officials who cannot withstand hard questions, whether construed aptly or not as personal attacks, should get out. If they persist in trying to muzzle or restrict the public, they should be driven out.
Has any citizen seriously unsettled the comfort zones or local schemes of the Commission with fire, rope and riot, or was it simply by speaking before them at a public meeting?
P.S. The communist V. I. Lenin opined that freedom is such a precious commodity that it must be carefully rationed.
Why does the majority on the Greenbrier County Commission become so exercised at the presentation for vote to dismiss the public comment protocols proposed by Commissioner Woody Hanna?
Recently, former Greenbrier County Commissioners, Steve Malcomb and Lowell Rose, in an attempt to “circle the wagons,” advised the current commission this is a non-issue and that they did not have to address it. Not so-any item on the agenda is subject to vote and adoption. Even if tabled, it has the potential, and will probably reappear, maybe surreptitiously, as old business.
The question remains: Why do Commissioners McClung and Hanna refuse to adopt or dismiss this issue? It still exists and has vitality. If they do not disapprove, they approve. (et qui non improbat, approbat)
No government entity will adopt a restrictive protocol unless they intend to use it. The refusal to vote compels one to infer this is true. The hostility and sharp edge to the denials as to the content of the proposal may well be a barometer as to the intent. No politician is ever satisfied with the power he does not have. That was an issue with Lowell Rose, mostly specific to public comment, when he was County Commissioner and is apparently contagious with Commissioner Mike McClung and Commissioner Woody Hanna.
I contend there was no spontaneous generation of a benign and altruistic nature, or intent, to Mr. Hanna’s proposal. The uncertain and unforeseeable quantities of applications vitiate the proposal. It is suspect not only as to content but to intent.
The past is prologue, and attempts to muzzle public speech at County Commission meetings have a sordid history in Greenbrier County. I recall Commissioner Steve Malcomb, with great pomp and ceremony, retiring the “infamous gavel” of Betty Crookshanks to a glass case, he having decried two years previously “Where is freedom of speech in Greenbrier County?” Only two years later Mr. Malcomb and Commissione Lowell Rose had descended to the same level with their meeting addendum. Regrettably, I perceive the potential for the same persona to be manifest in the actions specific to public comment by Commissioner Mike McClung and Commissioner Woody Hanna.