Stifling free speech

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In a unanimous decision last Tuesday, Charlotte County supervisors dealt a blow to democracy.

We think the decision to limit those who participate in public comment during meetings only to people who pay real estate and personal property taxes in the county and those who maintain a residence here was wrong and in error.

“I don’t have a problem with that either, as long as it’s germane to what’s going on in the county, I guess …,” said Drakes Branch Supervisor Garland H. Hamlett Jr.

Hamlett voted for the change, along with his colleagues. We agree with his comment, which was in reference to anyone speaking to the board, but not his vote.

During the Tuesday meeting, Wylliesburg resident Kay Pierantoni said she would’ve liked to see then-proposed guidelines allow any speakers who address the board pertaining to county business.

“I can think of valid reasons why an ‘outsider’ would have pertinent and legitimate items to bring before the supervisors,” said Pierantoni.

Charlotte, like other counties in the Heart of Virginia, take actions and become involved in activities that affect neighboring jurisdictions — from economic development to zoning matters.

Just like neighbors in a subdivision, the actions of counties can affect their neighboring counties. Those who do business, travel through or have other interests in Charlotte should have every right to address supervisors, along with landowners and those who live here.

“Why would the board not want to hear from all persons interested in the county?” Terry Ramsey questioned. “Who are you trying to keep from speaking, and why is such restriction needed?”

We pose the same question to supervisors.