OUR VIEW: What will it take to get more people to attend public meetings?

Published 9:30 am Friday, April 21, 2023

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As a newspaper, part of our job is to cover important public meetings, such as those held by the Troup County Commission, LaGrange City Council, Troup County School Board, West Point City Council and Hogansville City Council.  

These meetings are where important decisions about the future of our county are made. They aren’t always the most exciting — we think even those leading the meetings would agree with that assessment — but they are important. The people in these leadership roles decide how our tax dollars are spent, vote on future projects that could make our community a better place to live and decide the future of our students. 

All of them offer public comment in some various form. 

Yet, unfortunately, there’s little public participation unless there’s a controversial topic on the agenda. You can always tell because you’ll see dozens of people who have never been to a meeting before show up. 

It’s great when people show up when they are fired up about something, but we wish more of the public attended even when they weren’t mad about a topic on the agenda. You often hear people say “I didn’t know about that” or “how is the county/city even affording all of this?” Or “why did that get funding but this didn’t?” 

Well, most of those answers are provided through conversations at board meetings. We obviously do our best to answer these questions in our stories, but even the best news story doesn’t include every single word spoken at a meeting. It’s the highlights, the quick version if you will, of a longer conversation. 

An informed public makes a community much stronger, and we wish more people took a few minutes out of their busy lives to attend public meetings. 

It’s always difficult to watch at school board meetings when a hundred people are in the room for the award presentation but all but a handful clear out when the award portion of the meeting ends. We understand why. 

People are busy. Students who were awarded have school the next day. But more involvement can only be a good thing. 

We’d like to see more people attend these meetings or live stream them from the comfort of their own homes. They are recorded for a reason — to give taxpayers a chance to watch, even if they can’t be there.