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GannettUSA Today

Monday, August 14, 2006

Closed meetings don't open minds

The head of a homeowners association on Long Beach Island said a closed meeting, such as the one held last week with state and federal officials, is the best way to get information out about the beach replenishment project for the island. It's easy for him to say that because he was among the select few invited to the meeting between officials of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers and LBI homeowner group representatives, who then report back to their associations.

The problem with open meetings, the homeowners president said, is the number of questions likely to be asked by the number of antagonists there. What's so wrong with that? The point is to make informed decisions about issues. What better way than to ask questions of those in the best position to answer them? As for controlling a meeting with "antagonists,'' the presiding officer should remind the audience about civility, set the ground rules and then enforce them.

While representative democracy has many strong points, these homeowners are relying on their president to give them the straight scoop about the meeting to which they weren't invited, not his spin on what happened. The homeowners would be far better off hearing about it with their own ears.


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