Palm Beach County Commission adding more nighttime meetings

Acknowledging that the need for paychecks can trump participation in democracy, the Palm Beach County Commission plans to hold more meetings after the workday ends.

The commission has agreed to add two more nighttime meetings to its usual schedule. The first will be at 5 p.m. April 2. Another evening meeting is planned for 5 p.m. Nov. 5

Also, during the summer the commission holds at least two nighttime public meetings to discuss county budget.

The move toward making it easier for the public to attend commission meetings could help improve public trust in local government, which has been shaken by past commission corruption scandals, said Commissioner Paulette Burdick. She pushed for the night meetings.

Usually the commission meets at 9:30 a.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. There are other monthly commission meetings to deal with everything from zoning changes to garbage disposal, but those too are typically held in the morning.

Morning meetings are good for the county staffers as well as the attorneys, lobbyists, consultants and others who are paid to be there, but they are not a good time for members of the public who work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contentious development proposals and other controversial issues that end up going before the commission can draw big crowds to the commission chambers. That often comes with big complaints from those who had to use a vacation day or sick day or go without a paycheck just for the chance to voice their opinion.

Lots of local cities hold their government meetings at night. The County Commission in the past has experimented with holding more nighttime meetings, with mixed attendance results.

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