Board meetings can be boring.
There, I said it.
I suppose that is not shocking to most people, but for a reporter to say it is something completely different. Community newspapers have for generations covered local board meetings like flies covering a garbage can at a picnic.
That has changed somewhat over the last few years, but meetings still hold some strange draw for journalists. It's almost like we expect something to actually happen.
Not that I haven't been to some exciting meetings over the years. In 1992, I covered a meeting where a college president was screamed at and disciplined by his own board, and the professors censured him. That meeting lasted for hours. I dozed in the hallway during a closed session.
I was at the meeting when a County Board member announced she changed her party registration, which changed the balance of power on the board. Of course that was in Arizona, where the County Board had a grand total of five members, even though the county was huge.
I have covered county meetings, city meetings, school board meetings – you name it. I am even the secretary of my local Harley Owners Group chapter, meaning I have to, yes, take minutes at those monthly meetings.
Maybe I should change my middle name to meeting.
While many, if not most, meetings can be monotonous, boring affairs, that does not mean they are not important. Paying attention to local governmental bodies is very important. In fact, I wish it was more important to people.
For example, last week the county held a meeting to discuss ways to plug a budget hole. It was open to the public. There were a handful of people there, but I think most, if not all, of them were county employees.
And when it was time for public comment, not a single person got up to speak. This is a multi-million dollar budget with a nearly $1 million shortfall and no one got up to comment.
The good news for Ogle County voters, is that this County Board seems to function pretty well and in an open manner. Sure, there is the juvenile eye rolling at meetings, and there are clearly “camps” on the board that are at odds. But in general, it is a pretty solid body.
That's good, but you can't count on that always being a fact. One or two election cycles can change things very quickly. On a board as big as the Ogle County Board, a few people can work together to wreak a lot of havoc, basically shutting things down.
All elected officials require public scrutiny at all times. I don't care what party they are, or if you know them or not. They have their hands on your money – at the local, state and federal level. If you are not paying attention, or too caught up in the partisan divide, you are much more easily fooled, played and stolen from.
Go to some local meetings from time to time. Let your local elected officials know you are paying attention. Give them kudos for actually serving – it takes a lot of time and effort and they should be applauded for their efforts.
But they should also be watched closely. That is your job as citizens. Don't forget to do it.