The age of technology has given us many great things and access to information quickly.
The news business, for better or worse, has been turned around by social media, allowing viewers to experience the news while it is happening. Yet, the more many technological advances pop up in our society, the less connected it seems we are with our past.
A good example of this scenario is how public comment regarding a proposed oil and gas ordinance for Sandoval County has been relegated to email and two public meetings; that is, unless the commission votes to repeal its decision. Commissioners approved the move on a 3-2 vote July 26, with Commissioners Jay Block and Don Chapman opposing it, and Commissioners Dave Heil, James Holden-Rhodes and Kenneth Eichwald supporting it.
The pros for this decision are relevant for those who have attended or have been following the commission’s discussion and research on an oil and gas ordinance.
For one, having a timely meeting that doesn’t run into the early morning hours of the following day is understandable. Second, many public comments in the past mirrored each other, thus allowing everyone three minutes to repeat what had already been said.
Many comments made by constituents were clear, concise and to the point, but there were many people who just jumped on a bandwagon and wasted the commission’s time.
The cons for this begin with a term Commissioner Jay Block has mentioned time and time again: optics. It doesn’t look good for a county in the spotlight for making serious changes that other counties are considering to all of the sudden ask their constituents to pipe down.
Yes, public comment is now submitted online, and yes, the submittals are available to view every Friday, but consider the great speakers of the past being asked to do this same thing.
Would Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech have been as powerful if submitted online?
The fact of the matter is, some things, no matter how advanced we become as a society, need to be left alone. The passionate constituents in the county deserve to be heard and not by email, but in real life.
Chances are, the candor of their words and the pleading of their hearts can make a difference.
Still, speakers from the public should be respectful of each other’s and the commissioners’ time. Having a crowd of people driving home at 3 a.m. when they’re tired isn’t particularly safe.
Speakers should avoid belaboring points or show-boating, and if someone else had made the same point, just say they agree with that person.
Also, if commissioners want constituents to be concise, they should set the example. They shouldn’t take 20 minutes for their comments, greatly increasing a meeting’s length, while limiting the public to three minutes.
As the old adage goes, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
The Observer strongly urges the commission to reconsider its stance on the matter of public comment regarding oil and gas. The people of Sandoval County have the right to be heard.