Chris Faulknor, Editor
In June of 2001, I attended my first City Commission meeting. It wasn’t my job yet, as I was 13 years old, but it was part of the journey to becoming an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scout, so there I was. I watched as many decisions affecting our town were made, and listened with fascination as the clerk carefully called out a roll-call for each vote. The idea of seeing the government action I saw on TV (referring, of course, to the US House and Senate) in our own City Hall was exciting, and the thought that all of the government business was right out there for the public to see amazed me.
What amazed me more, however, was this: “Where are all of the people?”
It seemed to me, as young as I was, that if the City’s business were being done in front of the people, that there would be standing room only.
I pictured 3,000 Boyne Citizens filing into the room, thankful for the privilege that our Michigan Open Meetings Act gives us, ensuring that the people’s business is done in the presence of the people. So I went to the next meeting, sitting in the back row. Over on the far side of the room, I saw Randy Howard from the Police Department, and three citizens who came to be heard on a specific issue (and when that issue had been addressed, they left) Only years later (2009, to be exact) did I realize something: “Not everyone can get to these meeting, so it’s the job of the newspaper to help them understand what is going on.”
To carry out this duty is a privilege, and one that I take on with serious resolve. I am happy to say that I have received great cooperation from the City of Boyne City in carrying out this mission. Not only are their agendas (and later, their minutes) posted online promptly, but the City Manager, Chief of Police, Clerk, and other staff members are standing by, and more than happy to educate me (and indirectly, the public) on the specifics.
Other governments make that task slightly harder. Agendas are vague, minutes are often the most basic, listing only what is legally required. Council Members are not only unwilling to help, but openly confrontational when their meetings are attended. There is only one thing to do in this case – open the doors and let the sunshine in.
There will be more information coming in future papers about local government and how to get involved. Until then, I urge each of you – get out there and watch. The business of the people is meant to be conducted in front of the people. This can not be done if there are no people there.
Chris Faulknor is the Editor of The Boyne City Gazette, and a long-time Boyne City native. His editorial column can be seen in The Boyne City Gazette each week.