Meetings of public governing bodies are public by their very nature. That means citizens and the media who serve them may attend. Only a few meetings closed for specific legal reasons aren’t open, but even then any resulting actions are public.
We suspect elected officials and citizens alike sometimes forget this fundamental rule of our democracy. Red Wing School Board member Steve Anderson’s comment Monday night prompts us to issue everyone a reminder. He wondered aloud if the media will still be invited when the board begins holding monthly workshops instead of strictly traditional meetings.
Some might be quick to answer “yes” or “of course.”
Some might take umbrage that the press is invited and they aren’t.
A better approach may be to turn the comment on its head. Citizens invited, i.e. elected, people to represent them. John and Jane Q. Public don’t need an invitation to their own government and they shouldn’t expect one.
The School Board voted Monday night to designate one meeting a month a workshop. Members said they intend to discuss rather than act on issues the first Monday of each month; votes will come the third Monday. Workshops will take place around a Twin Bluff Middle School library table rather than on the City Hall dais. And yes, they will be public but not videotaped.
It doesn’t matter if the setting is formal or casual. It doesn’t matter if you call it a meeting or workshop or even an open house. It’s all the people’s public business.