No ifs, ands or 'butts' about it - the public has had it say
Monday's public hearing on Carlton County's proposed smoking ban ordinance was one of the most extraordinary public meetings in recent memory. That's a good thing, because an estimated 150-200 people packed into the meeting room of the County Tra...
Monday's public hearing on Carlton County's proposed smoking ban ordinance was one of the most extraordinary public meetings in recent memory.
That's a good thing, because an estimated 150-200 people packed into the meeting room of the County Transportation Building, some of whom had to stand the entire two hours of the session because all seats were taken.
The fact that so many concerned citizens were willing to come out on a frigid winter night, when the driving conditions were sketchy at best, was to be commended. It shows that they stand behind what they believe in and are willing to turn up and say so. In fact, Carlton County Board Chair Gordon Aanerud stated it was the most well attended public hearing he can recall in his 15 years as county commissioner.
County residents coming in to the meeting were asked at the door to sign in if they were planning to make comments during the meeting and were registered according to whether they would be speaking in favor of, or opposed to, the proposed ordinance.
The hearing was convened exactly at the appointed time (a real feat when so many people continued to filter in), and with only brief introductory remarks, Aanerud got the hearing under way in an orderly fashion.
Speakers were announced according to their order on the sign-in sheet, alternating between those in favor of the ordinance and those opposed. And for the most part, those who spoke were prepared, calm, rational and well-spoken. Both sides made some valid points, and none stooped to leveling accusations at one another or resorting to outbursts, as so often happens when such controversial subjects are debated.
In fact, both sides showed amazing restraint, even when the person speaking before or after them was diametrically opposed to what he or she was saying.
The hearing was extremely well run, and everyone there had ample time and opportunity to speak his or her mind. Now, the county board has a great deal of substance for thoughtful pondering on the matter before it takes action.
The only misstep of the evening came after the meeting was adjourned and attendees - some of whom had publicly attested to being in frail health due to extreme respiratory problems - had to walk past a circle of smokers on their way to the parking lot.