LETTER: No one stands above the people

Apr. 23, 2014 @ 04:57 AM

To the Editor:

“The public is reminded that it is given a generous allocation of three minutes.” This was Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack’s comment to a member of the public during a meeting, as reported in Thursday’s News & Observer.

Public comment during official meetings ought to be a time when officials listen to those members of the public who muster the courage to address their local government. As is so often the case at board of commissioners' meetings, however, while a citizen is speaking, Womack and Commissioner [Kirk] Smith are whispering away in private conversation. Having attended meetings of the BOC, the Sanford City Council and the Board of Education, I can say from experience that BOC meetings are the only ones characterized by such side conversations during public comment. It is offensive to the democratic process.

Jim Womack should be reminded that the public is given an allocation of three minutes to speak to its government, and officials such as he should respect that time. Mr. Womack also should be reminded that the government works for the public, answers to the public, and serves the public.

Finally, Womack should be reminded that he has been given a generous — extremely so — allocation of four years in office. He has spent that time making a name for himself among empowered Republicans and driving wedges between the BOC and other elected boards in the county. His decision not to run again in 2014 is a good decision for Lee County. Let all of us be reminded that in a democracy, no one stands above the people.

Jay Calendine