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03.08.07 -- EDITORIAL: The fine print will get you every time

By CHER PHILLIPS

I owe our town clerk Debbie Miller an apology.

And I offer it to her here, publicly and willingly, but I have to caution you that I do it with great reticence. Not because the apology isn't genuine. When I am wrong, (and I know of it) I say that I am wrong. My reticence is due to the fact that McIntosh has been sliding in a scary direction lately.

Miller contended during tonight's town council meeting that the LPA notices posted had agendas on them. I said they didn't. She said they did. She was right.

The notices do contain some info. And this is why I give her this apology with a caveat. The info is just really hard to read. So hard to read that I missed the details after repeatedly looking at them. So hard to read that I missed the fine print even after I took a picture of the bulletin board.



See, I have this habit. I drive past the office on my way home from work every day. Every day. I pull in and flash my brights at the sign so I can see if there's a meeting agenda posted.

I'll be honest. I was pretty bothered after the LPA meeting last week when the Historic Board was left out. I'd gone to the meeting and written down every word as Lee Deaderick motioned for a workshop meeting between the two boards to hash out the Historic Ordinance 151. Shoot, I'm not even a fan of historic ordinance 151.

But I get annoyed when people are left out.

That's my pet peeve, and I've never made a secret of it here. The purpose of open government is to allow everyone a part in it. It's so one groups doesn't get to just leave people out because they don't like them, or because they don't agree with them, or because someone new is holding the powerstick this time around the meeting circle.

So after the LPA meeting, I drove by the office and took a picture of the LPA meeting notice. And you know, I *still* missed the fine print underneath the posting.

The day following the meeting, I asked around to the usual suspects -- proponents of the historic ordinance -- where were you? Those folks had no idea the February 27 LPA meeting was *the* joint meeting, either. I take some solace in the fact that I am not the only person in town who can't read small type. But, like them, I was expecting to see words like "WORKSHOP" and "the LPA and the Historic Board."

During citizen comments at tonight's meeting, I asked the council if we could have agendas posted with our public notices. I stand by this request. But I'd like to amend it so I don't have to make a fool of myself again. (Because, folks, I did a fine job of it.)

My amendment is simple: I ask that we not only have agendas, but that we legible agendas. I know, I know. I am asking for the moon.

But I feel like an agenda for a public meeting should not be the fine print. It's the meat and potatoes of the business of a town. Just look at this picture here. If you can read the fine print (I had to use Photoshop to enlarge this posting to see the agenda line), the next LPA meeting deals with rezoning requests being considered in town. Did you know that was happening? No, me either. Rezoning, like the historic ordinance, is the kind of thing you PUT IN BLOCK LETTERS so people can check in on those issues.

These are the things that we should be putting up front, in bold, readable typeface.

As a footnote, I went to the Historic Preservation Board meeting this week and asked them why they didn't come to the meeting. Two of the board members didn't read their e-mail in time to attend. One board member forgot. But Tammy Flagg had a lot to say about it. She said that she went to joint meetings over this ordinance with the LPA when she was drafting it last spring, and no one showed up. She said people only came out in force when the council was passing it. She said they missed all the of the smaller meetings when they could have offered input.

See, it saves the town money for people to have detailed agendas for every meeting. If people can be made aware and get involved in the planning meetings, then they aren't going to protest ordinances in the last stages, after the town has invested money in publicly advertising ordinances and sending it through the town attorney or a planner for an opinion.

I'll leave you with this question: If those joint meetings the first time around for Historic Ordinance 151 had been posted in a manner with detailed agendas, or talked about here on the blog so people can get information and dig into the issue if they want to, do you think McIntosh would be repealing this ordinance now?

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by Cher @ 10:29 PM,

2 Comments:

At   March 09, 2007 9:15 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

If they don't read their e-mail why do you think they would read the blog?

 
At   March 09, 2007 9:30 AM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Oh, I am sure there are lots of people who don't read the blog just like there are people who don't read the newspaper, or listen to NPR, or watch TV news at noon. But there are people who do.

And, this is McIntosh. People talk.

 

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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"A Popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, 1822

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