If the Fort Wayne Community Schools board wanted to get the point across that it doesn't care that much about public input, it did a pretty good job:
General comments from the public at Fort Wayne Community Schools board meetings will no longer be televised after the board voted Monday to make changes to two parts of board policy.
Major changes to the policy regarding public participation include limiting speakers to three minutes instead of five and moving the public comment portion to after the meeting has been adjourned. FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said the board welcomes public input, but the time set aside for it is not meant to be an open forum.
“The public comment period is a time for the public to share information with the board, not a time to share information with the public.”
Granted, things got a little tense at board meetings when Elmhurst parents were trying to save their school; it's understandable that the board wants to tighten up the comment rules so the potential for disruption is lessened. Any public board has the right, even the obligation, to do the public's business in an orderly, efficient way instead of letting the meetings become free-for-alls. I've seen some of those meetings, and they're not pretty.
But. There's a danger here that the board is overreacting to a one-time (or few-time) problem with a longterm policy that will do more harm than good. The change from the five- to three-minute limit seems artibrary -- anybody who wants to spew invective can get the job done quite nicely in one minute. And what's the point of not televising the comments? Don't want to give all those publicity seeking nutjobs the access they so desperately crave to the 10 or 15 viewers who will watch the meeting on cable?
The worst part is moving the public comments to the end, after the meeting is adjourned. Yeah, you can talk, lowly taxpapers, but it doesn't really count. Keep the rule about civil behavior, yes, and limit the comments to the topic at hand, but the time for public input is before action is taken, when the comments actually might influence a vote.