This question was posted in response to an editorial by the SunHerald, which itself appeared to be in response to a letter I wrote to the paper regarding a then-recent MDOT public meeting.  This was posted on March 26, 2006.

Which type of DOT 'public meeting' format works better?

And I ask this question in response to recent events down here in southern Mississippi. Below is today's editorial from the SunHerald, posted at
(this URL will go away in a week...after the 2nd), which almost seems to be written in response to a letter I sent to the paper, posted here:

So my question to everyone is which meeting style works better, having a set 'hearing-type' meeting with speakers and an organized 'public comment' timeperiod, or the "come-as-you-go" style of meeting where people can come and go and speak to representatives at their leisure?

From experience, I know VDOT tends towards the come-as-you-go style, while MnDOT leans towards the hearing-style.

As the editorial will disappear into the archives in a week, I'll display it below:


Posted on Sun, Mar. 26, 2006
MDOT's 'open forum' takes the public out of meetings

Officials with the Mississippi Department of Transportation are undermining the public's ability to influence transportation policy by conducting MDOT's public meetings as "open forums."

Public meetings are critical if MDOT officials are going to respond to South Mississippians' transportation needs rather than dictate transportation policy to them.

But rather than hold public meetings in the traditional sense - where everyone gathers at one time in one place and each person is given a chance to be heard by everyone else - MDOT has come up with what it calls an "open forum public meeting."

As MDOT proclaimed in an advertisement for two of these recent events:  "Citizens are invited to come and go as they please during the hours of either meeting to view the department's alternatives and speak to MDOT representatives concerning design, right-of-way and environmental issues."

By conducting public meetings in a come-and-go-as-you-please manner, MDOT has destroyed any opportunity for a "public meeting" to take place. Instead, members of the public simply wander around a room, looking at MDOT's exhibits and looking for someone from MDOT to explain what it all means.

This approach ensures that MDOT officials will not have to face a hostile crowd at a public meeting, but merely a few "concerned citizens" at a time.

This approach also denies members of the public an opportunity to address those in attendance and express a view that MDOT officials might not like - or might not have thought of.

This approach also allows - as Adam Froehlig's letter to the editor today details - one MDOT official's answers to differ markedly from another MDOT official's because there is no way to track what anyone is telling anyone.

The next time MDOT sets up one of these, the public should gather in one area of the room and demand that a real meeting take place, not another of these come-and-go-as-you-please mockeries.

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