Our Turn: Commission vote a sucker punch to free press

Transparency takes a hit by moving meeting date

A PeeDeePost.com editorial

The Richmond County commissioners voted on Monday 6-1 to change its monthly meeting date to the first Tuesday of each month instead of the first Monday.

Starting next month, the first Tuesday of each month will include a full lineup of public meetings:

* 5:30 p.m. Richmond County Board of Commissioners, downtown Rockingham
* 6 p.m. Richmond County Board of Education, downtown Hamlet
* 7 p.m. Richmond Community College Board of Trustees, Hwy 74 Business, Hamlet

If your interests are intertwined to any more than one of the above-mentioned public bodies, you’re simply out of luck.

support-300x105The catalyst for change, according to county officials, was two-fold. First, having the meeting on a Tuesday bypasses the need to reschedule meetings for when they fall on a Monday that is designated as a federal holiday. Second, it gives the commissioners eight additional business hours to ask questions about the issue of the day. The agenda is made available to the public and to the media on the Friday before each Monday (now Tuesday) meeting. The agenda for Monday’s meeting was sent to the commissioner two days before that, on Wednesday.

The answer to the latter issue is simple, and something we suggested it to all seven county commissioners and County Manager Rick Sago in an email late last week. The fix? Make the agenda available one day sooner. The Post published Sago’s response — the only one of eight people written to — in a staff report on Monday after Sago had replied over the weekend.

The counter to the former, meanwhile, is this: There will still be times the commissioners choose to move their meeting date. Election Day, the first Tuesday in November, is among the possibilities. Same with days of severe winter weather.

Commissioner Jimmy Capps cast the lone dissenting vote. Reached Tuesday, Capps said he saw nothing wrong with the regular meeting date. He had arranged his work schedule to make himself available each first Monday evening of the month. Now he’s forced to reschedule what appeared to be set in stone.

“I just didn’t see any need to do it,” Capps said.

Capps said he also had doubts after reading the email from The Pee Dee Post. The points were good ones, perhaps, but Capps was the only one who thought so.

Sago told The Pee Dee Post the digital newspaper had two options: Choose which meeting to cover or hire someone. The former is obvious, although until now an unnecessary evil. The latter is financially not possible, and he knows it. To suggest that — well, let’s just say the PDP doesn’t have a taxpayer-fueled general fund.

It’s true, the commissioners’ meetings are broadcast live on Time Warner Cable. That’s great if (a) you subscribe to Time Warner Cable and (b) you are in front of the television at 5:30 p.m. It’s also true, as county IT Director Jimmy Quick announced last night, that the meetings will be streamed live online — circumventing the need for Time Warner Cable subscription — and available on demand in an online archive.

Those steps are positives ones towards transparency and accessibility, but the vote to change the meeting date takes the commission a couple of steps back. The commission knowingly voted to make a decision that will have an adverse impact on the media’s ability to provide coverage with so many meetings on the same night.

It’s not simply watching the video; it’s about having a reporter on scene to ask follow-up questions and obtain more information than what the public body wants to, or initially thinks to, share with the public. Even a replay of a meeting might not do much good; there is often very little discussion before a vote — a vote just like the one made Monday night to change the meeting date.

We realize this issue is not one to garner massive public attention — if any at all — and compel readers to swarm the county building with emails, letters and phone calls. That doesn’t change the bottom line, which is this: Having a reporter help tell readers not only what happened but why and how it will impact them is the hallmark of a free society that embraces a free press. Six commissioners voted against that on Monday.

Each PeeDeePost.com editorial is an opinion piece that aims to serve the greater good. It’s message does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any individual who works with The Pee Dee Post.

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  • Joe DeBerry

    We have got to get the Commissioners Voted out and some in that has Common Sense.All this is by putting all meetings so close together is another Political Way these Democrats and all the rest arrange these times on the same days is a way to keep you from attending these meetings to cover up their Corrupt Votes from the Voters here and we will remember this when their reelection comes up.No threats but one Promise we intend to keep get rid of them all.

    • sportsnut

      Mr. DeBerry, you do realize there are Republicans on the County Commissioners board and the Board of Education is non partisan. You seem to think everyone has a secret agenda out there to keep everyone in Richmond County down. And as far as you’re concerned, they’re all Dems. But we all know that’s not the case. Feel free, of course, to vote straight Republican next election and the we’ll be right back where we are now when people get tired of the Republicans agenda. If you feel this strongly about it then run for something or do something more productive than just blasting your opinions all over social media. Oh, and please use a period every once and a while.

      • Local

        sportsnut, What county have you been living in? Surely not Richmond Co. We’ve never had Republicans in power here so this Republican agenda must be one you’ve dreamed up.

        • sportsnut

          As I was telling Mr. DeBerry, I wasn’t saying that there is a Republican agenda in place. If you read what I wrote then you’ll see I was saying that politics, like many other things, go in cycles. Democrats have been in power in Richmond County for a long time. There’s no arguing that. What I’m saying is that once the county gives Republicans a chance and let them run things for a while then people will grow tired of their agendas and ideas and go back to putting Democrats in power again.

          • Joe DeBerry

            But you came on here throwing rocks at me so im giving them back and if you had of been a little more respectful with your words to me I would give you the same so you get what you give when I never have discussed any thing on here with you so if you want respect ,then give it but bad mouth me and I give you Plenty back or we can be Civil or Keep on arguing if thats what you desire

      • Joe DeBerry

        Little man I know we one Republican on the Board and he is useless as a Tick on a dog Boy Here is your Period. Is that what you needed.I write what I want and will continue to do so as you will see and and I will blast my mouth as Dam much as I want to as you say and if you want to play a game with me you need to ready for a all lot of more that will be Blasting your little a// to someone you have no idea who you are messing with ,but will soon find out if this is a game you are trying to play cause I love doing this as you will see little man.Im am a Republican and have never voted a dam Straight Ticket and if you know so much about being a Legal age voter ,there is no Straight Party Voting on the Ballots any more , so bring all you got at me cause I want be a push over as you will see and since you think I Blast all over the Social Media ,Little man its call Freedom Of Speech and I will use all I can give ,This can get as nasty as you want it ,WAITING and here is You Period again ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… is that enough for ya.This is not a School grading any comments on here?

        • sportsnut

          Just like you, anything I write on here is freedom of speech which means you can’t threaten me with my job seeing as how you know who I am even though I don’t know you. Secondly, what I was saying is I know Richmond county has primarily been a Democratic County. But just like we’re seeing with the President, which I’m sure you’re a big fan of too, once everyone votes all the Dems out and replaces them with Republicans then people will get tired of their ideas and agendas after a period of time just like everyone is now with Dems. Thank you for using correct grammar once but name calling Mr. DeBerry? Aren’t we all a little old to be name calling? No one here, or at least not myself, is looking to start a proverbial war.

          • Joe DeBerry

            And just like you Stupid and i am name calling here.What dam rock have you been hit in the Head with.This is a Democratic County so no citizen here has the Right to vote for another party except it has to be a Democrat .Want happen old boy those corrupt days are over and the way you have ran that mouth you have got to be a Politician here or a son to one then if you are not who I think you are and I really don’t care if you are a One Nut Goat. IF you attack me as you did by Commenting on my Reply to start with so if you want a Proverbial War as you stated ,then I will give you all you want and then some. We can keep this up until the Elections are over or even Longer it all up to you / Here is a ( Period ) again for your Smart Educated Self.

          • sportsnut

            No citizen here has the right to vote for another party except it has to be a Democrat? Haha So what you’re saying is that no one can vote any other party in Richmond County except Democrat? How does that electoral process work? And no I’m not a politician nor am I related to one. Nor am I a “One Nut Goat” as you so eloquently put it. I’m just a resident who gets tired of people blaming all the world’s problems on President Obama and Democrats all over the world. Again, it is your prerogative to say whatever you please about whoever you please. But with that being said, don’t get so offensive and result in name calling when someone opposes your views.

          • Joe DeBerry

            You need to read all these Replies over water head. You made the Comment that this is a Democrat County and voting a straight ticket so you are sticking your head in the dirt old boy and all the problems is OBamas Fault and I get Offensive very easily and do not back down and I want if I believe what im saying and can prove what I Say or would not say a word ?As far as the Party system it needs to be Done away with ,it means Nothing to most of us?

          • sportsnut

            Maybe you shouldn’t get so offensive so quick and easily. And last time I checked, unemployment is as low as it has been in quite some time, the stock market is at an all time high and gas is as low as it has been in quite some time as well. But I guess Obama just gets the blame from you and none of the credit.

          • Joe DeBerry

            And yes you do have all the Freedom of Speech as we all do and you will get a boat load and more as you Desire to get?

          • Joe DeBerry

            And again Sportsnut no one said we need to replace all the Commissioners with Republicans ,even New Fresh young Democrats will be better than the useless ones we have now even you if you are hiding behind Sportsnut ,and you must be one of them with that name since you all lost the Referendum to waste money on that useless Sports Complex ? Grade this comment TEACHER.

          • Joe DeBerry

            No Fan of OBama either.

          • sportsnut

            Yes I know. That was sarcasm. It’s very obvious what your views on the President are.

          • Joe DeBerry

            IF you read others on here as well you will see OBama is not well spoken of by several people or the Politicians here .Im on here all the time with quite a few that are against him and the ones here so that is why I came after you with my resentment of any one in this county we have here.

      • Joe DeBerry

        Scared to put a pic on your Profile as I have read all your comments on other issues with other Citizens on here and all you do is run your mouth and Sports nut must mean you Know me and I have Figured out who you are and is your Job worth losing cause I will get it took if you need some help being unemployed ?

      • Joe DeBerry

        Anyone that ever voted a Straight Ticket when it was possible to do by Checking one Block on the Ballot had no business voting because there is not enough of either party that I would ever do that just to vote.It takes alot of home work to decide who is best for the Job and It won’t happen with me.Here is some more Periods for you……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  • Guest

    Apparently, there is a good chance you won’t even be around for the first Tuesday meeting. And you’re bitching about the change why?

    • Joe DeBerry

      Do you even know me smart ass, and how many if so do you even know I have not been to?

    • Joe DeBerry

      You will have to be there to see want you Mr Guest since you are hiding behind Guest and my Bitching is Freedom of Speech and you will get Plenty of it if you want some to ?

      • Guest

        The comment above was directed at Spradlin, not you, you freakin moron. Spradlin is on the verge of closing up shop. Should that happen, he won’t make the first Tuesday meeting, so why is he complaining about it? That was my comment to him, not you. Go get some reading comprehension skilz, doofus.

        • Joe DeBerry

          There you are Moron I thought it was time to hear from you .The comment you threw at Spradlin came to me so I replied to your Doofus comment .Good to hear from the Local Idiot we all so love to hear from.

          • Guest

            You epitomize the term “You can’t fix stupid.”

        • Kevin Spradlin

          Dear Mr. Guest,

          The PDP is not going anywhere. We announced a two-week suspension of normal news-gathering options on Feb. 15. We resumed normal operations on March 2.

          Full speed ahead.


          • Guest 2

            Kevin, who is WE? You are one person. Kevin announced a suspension. Kevin resumed operations.I think you’re trying to give people the false idea that this is anything other than one man’s webpage. You need to start being honest in the way you write…or go get treated for multiple personality disorder.

          • Kevin Spradlin

            Dear Guest 2,

            Since you feel it’s appropriate to tell someone to consult a mental health specialist, I guess it’s equally appropriate to offer you a grade-school math lesson.

            The Pee Dee Post is worked on each day by far more than one person. I know I’m going to leave someone out, but here goes:

            Nick (sports), Pam (sales), Sharon (sales), Sharlyn (sales/graphic design), Sarah (graphic design), Stephanie (social media), Dr. James Burns (columnist), Jack Stevenson (columnist), Rep. Richard Hudson (columnist), D.G. Martin (columnist) …

            I could keep going, but I’m pretty sure I’ve listed two or more, which is more than one … so point made, I think.

            Thank you for writing.


          • Jay Hudson

            I didn’t realize you were back. Glad to see it!
            My two-cents on the public meeting times being changed.
            I use to attend county commission meetings until I realized the tactics Kenneth Robinette used to divide the voters on issues so he could get his way. Shortly after he was elected chairman he and the other commissioners changed the meeting time to a earlier time, a time that made it almost impossible for working people to attend commission meetings, and thus avoid, or minimize dissent. Same thing with the meeting agenda. Nothing could be mentioned at a meeting if it was not listed on the holy agenda, BUT, there was never any discussion that I recall on HOW to get an item on the agenda.

  • http://frutke.com/ Frutke

    I’ll just leave this here…
    (from http://www.xkcd.com/386/)

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