‘Spectators’ deserve greater respect

Rube Render

Rube Render

By Rube Render

Local columnist

It is not an exaggeration to assert that during my time in Clovis I have attended as many, if not more, commission meetings than a majority of current sitting commissioners.

I began doing this during May of 2002 in an effort to become familiar with the new community my family and I would call home for our foreseeable future.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that at city and county commission meetings, the public was invited to speak out, not only on any issue published on the agenda, but also on any issue they may have an interest in placing before the appropriate governing body.

One only had to indicate a desire to speak, generally with a raised hand, and the presiding officer would grant them time for their observation.
Over the years, I have watched as the mayor of Clovis or the chairman of the County Commission patiently allowed any citizen who wished ample time to present their grievance or gratitude as the case may be to everyone present.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one city commissioner was unhappy with this eastern New Mexico custom.

At the last city commission meeting (June 19), Robert Sandoval explained that while these are “open meetings” they are not really “open” and there are three groups of attendees. These are elected officials, city or county staff and “spectators.” It was further explained that the function of spectators is to spectate and they should not be allowed to disrupt city officials who are conducting the important business of government.

In effect, this was “Sit down, shut up and spectate.”

A politician is never so sincere as when he is caught telling the truth.

It came as something of a shock to me as I had been diligently attending commission meetings for more than 12 years and was foolish enough to believe that I was participating in the time-honored democratic process of small-town government.

If anyone wonders why nobody attends meetings, pays attention to issues or takes time to vote, look no further.

A short article on page 3 of the June 25 Clovis News Journal contained the following information: “U.S. District Judge James O. Browning issued an injunction on Monday finding that the village of Ruidoso’s rule or policy barring speakers from being critical is ‘an unconstitutional burden on free speech,’ the Albuquerque Journal reports.”

I commend this article to current commissioners and all who would aspire to this exalted position.

Rube Render is the Curry County Republican chairman. Contact him at:
rube.render@actsnm.com