I recently attended a Commissioners special meeting that had attracted significant attention due to an agenda item relating to the purchase of riot gear for the Hancock County’s Sheriff Department. Although the item was stricken from the agenda late last week for undisclosed reasons, the citizens of Hancock County turned out in droves to comment on police spending in all its forms. At its peak, the counter of meeting participants was over 70.
I was as encouraged by this turnout as I was discouraged by the proceedings of the meeting. Claiming not to know the best way to handle this volume of participants, Commissioner Clark displaced the period for public comments from the beginning of the meeting to the end, after all of the items had been voted on. Despite his assertions that the public would still have the same amount of influence by speaking after the votes, when the time for public comments did arrive, Commissioner Clark displayed disinterest, even leaving the room for a period of time. Despite this less-than-warm welcome, the questions posed by the public were admirable: direct, pointed and abundant.
If there are those who feel their presence at the meeting accomplished little, I would disagree. Clearly the attention that the item about riot gear received had a concrete response. Your presence at the meeting sent a clear message that we, the citizens of Hancock County, are ready and willing to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.
I do not write this letter as an attack on the character of Commissioner Clark, a man who has served his community for decades, but rather to reveal that our elected officials have, through no fault of their own, grown used to our silence. I write it as a call to action for the people of Hancock County. I hope that all who read this will continue to attend these public meetings and voice their concerns. Change is possible, but it needs our voices — and lots of them.