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Hear them out

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Carroll supervisors need to hear from citizens, even if they don't like what's being said.

By The Gazette

After all the talk of public involvement and listening to constituents by Carroll officials, the unwillingness of the county supervisors to hear out a community member during citizens’ comment time is simply stunning.
Yes, citizen Mike Goldwasser had spoken about his concerns over a perceived conflict of interest only a month before last Thursday’s board of supervisors meeting.
Yes, Goldwasser has made several appearances before local government boards, raising concerns on various decisions. He acknowledges this by describing himself as a frequent critic who claims  a lack of openness in county government.
Yes, what Goldwasser wants to share certainly has the power of making county officials uncomfortable. He is concerned about County Administrator Gary Larrowe’s former interest in a rental property on Airport Road while he worked to develop the nearby Wildwood Commerce Park — a situation that had the potential to benefit Larrowe.
These are exactly the reasons why county officials should have given Goldwasser time to speak without interruptions.
Chairman Tom Littrell’s decision to tell Goldwasser to move on from that topic — a move supported by the county board’s rules — is unprecedented.
Speakers during citizens’ time get three short minutes to state what’s on their mind. Speakers do not have the ability to filibuster the county board from the podium.
They get only a couple minutes in meetings that usually run three or more hours, and then they sit back down or leave.
After a year of the supervisors practically begging the public to get involved in local issues, such as developing the comprehensive plan, the board should at least appear to understand the value of getting input from constituents.
Littrell said at the meeting that “citizens’ time normally is a chance for the citizens to ask a question or to make a comment.”
Normally, but apparently not always.
Not letting a concerned citizen who’s engaged in the processes of representative government air his views makes it look like the supervisors have no stomach for dissenting views. It sent the wrong signal.
It would have been far better if the supervisors had just sat through the remarks without reacting — or overreacting.
Not allowing Goldwasser to speak may have made the meeting go a little easier, but outside the meeting room that act could take on a life of its own.
The supervisors have made Goldwasser’s concerns about a lack of open government in Carroll all the more relevant.