February 13, 2020

Wingate Lassiter

Like an amplified alarm clock, the bell
went off but the minister kept speaking

No, this is not a story about a long-winded preacher. It's about an incident at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting while Tim Stevens, a Baptist pastor, was berating the school administration during the "Public Comment" portion of the monthly session.

Three minutes is all the time the board allots for citizens to speak their piece. The mounted monitors on the meeting room's walls display the countdown like a basketball scoreboard until 0:00 appears and a very loud alarm bell goes off.

It's enough to scare an unsuspecting member of the audience.

But not Rev. Stevens. He politely asked for a couple of more minutes to speak. "Continue," responded Board Chairman Todd Sutton. And Mr. Stevens did, but not for very long.

It amounts to a "put down" of the public by a rule that restricts each "Comment" from citizens to three minutes (it used to be five) out of a board meeting that usually lasts two, three, four hours, and sometimes longer.

That kind of "atmosphere" at the meeting of a public body sows seeds of distrust among the electorate, particularly when folks are upset over recent mishandling of all sorts of stuff by school administrators.

No wonder 16 candidates are running for four of the school board's seven seats in this year's elections.

If board members are so concerned about "Public Comment" making their meetings longer, perhaps they should schedule "town hall" meetings throughout the county from time to time and let the people say what they need to say, and ask questions that need to be answered, even if it takes all night.

She's glad to see rules about unsightly places
but would like to see better restaurants here

Here's note from Judy Haberman, a "citizen and taxpayer of Smithfield and Johnston County," in response to the Town Council's adoption of stricter rules on dilapidated buildings and tire storage:

I was glad to read that the Town of Smithfield has put some rules in place for dilapidated buildings and tire storage.

At least that is a start in the right direction!

I get heartburn with each trip through Smithfield and (see) the unsightly residential areas and buildings that are so in need of repair....

Now if we could only get some restaurants like the Olive Garden, or an upscale restaurant or two to break the cycle of all the fast-food places, that might feed more tax money to continue the cleanup projects.

If Smithfield's "tulip trees" are blooming...

can Spring be closer than we think? The official start of the season is the Spring Equinox, when the Sun is lined up with the Earth's Equator. That's calculated to occur this year at 11:50 p.m. March 19 --- exactly five weeks from.

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