Morning Poll: County Board public comment changes?

Missing Middle advocates support a speaker during the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, March 18, 2023 (staff photo)

Should the Arlington County Board hold a quarterly public comment free-for-all?

That’s the suggestion of an Arlington Gazette Leader editorial. The opinion piece notes frustration with the County Board’s one-speaker-per-topic rule during the open public comment period of its monthly meetings.

One speaker at the March 16 meeting called the rule — in place to keep the public comment period at the beginning of meetings from turning into an hours-long parade of people voicing the same opinion on a given topic — “undemocratic garbage.”

The editorial then suggests an alternative path.

The one-speaker-per-topic rule leads people to rush to sign up first so their voice, but no others, will be heard on a subject. Requiring advance registration plus notice of the topic both are seen by county officials as making the process run more efficiently, but they take away spontaneity – something a “public-comment” session should embrace – and they allow for rules to be bent from the dais (or draconianly enforced) to support favored groups or positions but not necessarily others.

We admit to having no real solution, as allowing a true free-for-all probably does not benefit the community. A little public comment goes a loooooooong way, as anyone who has watched these events can attest.

One possible alteration to current practice? Scrap the public-comment period at monthly board meetings and swap in a quarterly gathering where at least [fill in whatever number is appropriate] slots are provided.

What do you think of changing the monthly comment period with tighter controls to a quarterly comment session where more voices can be heard?