August 18, 2013
The Roseboro Board of Commissioners are wrong to turn a deaf ear to citizens, even if what local residents come to talk about is something members are tired of hearing.
Yet earlier in the week, the town board — minus members Alice Butler and Anthony Bennett — did just that, muzzling residents on the issue of keeping chickens, particularly backyard hens, within town limits.
The town’s ordinance prohibits the chickens, and board members, in June, voted to uphold the law as it was written, thus putting the hens, as it were, back in the hen house.
The decision ruffled the feathers of some town residents who’ve made it their mission to keep the issue at the forefront of people’s minds, and who have worked diligently to change the minds of town leaders, so far to no avail.
There are two issues here — the first is the chickens, themselves; the second, allowing the public to express its thoughts to the people they’ve chosen to lead them.
We see no real problem with commissioners giving the green light to chickens, with some stipulations, most of them related to protecting the health and well being of residents. After all, if larger cities like Raleigh can accommodate such a request, it would seem a rural town like Roseboro could too.
But town leaders were elected to make those decisions, and they should be left to do so. If residents don’t like the way board members handle town business, be it chickens or some other issue, then they can bring about change come election time.
It’s the other issue, that of muzzling citizens, with which we take strongest issue, however.
While it can become cumbersome and time-consuming to allow residents to address issues that have been decided by a board, they still should have the right to speak their mind, albeit within limits. No one should be allowed to talk endlessly at any meeting about any subject. In fact, presentations that are succinct and deliver valid arguments regarding the desired request often gather the most traction anyway. But they shouldn’t be told any subject is off limits, nor should they be denied the opportunity to address any issue.
Putting a moratorium on an issue, as the town board did Tuesday night, simply because it’s been addressed and commissioners are tired of hearing about it is reactionary and certainly doesn’t give the impression that the elected board is open to its constituents’ thoughts and wishes.
Board members would do well to remember that they were elected to serve the people, and they were elected by the people. Refusing some of those same people the right to talk about any issue of relevance to the town is a mistake and should be rectified.