A Two Way Street

editorial-logo3I often write about the way that elected officials should treat the public when they appear before them and I have made no bones about the fact that sometimes our elected officials are less than professional with the public. It is a two way street, however, and this week I was reminded that sometimes it is the public that crosses the line. I understand how frustrating it is to try to get your point across when it seems to fall on deaf ears but that is no excuse for bad behavior in a public meeting.

It is important to know exactly what your public officials can do before you get upset at their response. Can they legally do what you are asking? If you don’t know, then find out from a knowledgeable source. The State of Tennessee is a good resource for questions on boundaries of public elected officials. Once you have documented information that outlines the action that can be taken, take a minute to think about how you should approach the situation. Just because an official can take action does not always mean that they are obligated to take action. Have a back up plan, so that you do not loose control. If this happens, then I will do that. It can help keep tempers in check if you do not feel that you are out of options and generally there is another path to get the help that you seek.

But, even if you disagree with the elected official, it is never appropriate to pitch a fit. It is never appropriate to become, or threaten to become, physical. It is childish and absurd and out of place in any public meeting. No matter how frustrated you feel or how irritating the official is, violence is not the answer.

Remember, your vote is the ultimate voice and it doesn’t have to shout to be heard. A good rule of thumb is if your behavior would be out of line in a kindergarten classroom, it is most likely out of line in a public meeting. If a five year old can understand the boundaries of decorum, then an adult can surely do the same. Too bad we can’t have a time out corner for officials and the public who cross the line. Of course, we may need to invest in an octagon meeting room.

Source: K. Depew, News Director