Dropping three reading rule is bad idea

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We have to admit, attending meetings is not at the top of our list of favorite things to do.

For one, they're usually boring. Many are unnecessary; we suspect some are called out more out of habit than necessity.

We understand, therefore, the attractiveness of abandoning the three-reading rule in the interest of efficiency. Most of the time, taking an item up at three separate meetings is a mere formality and, indeed, a waste of time.

The idea of requiring only one reading came up at this week's City Council meeting, touted as a means of achieving "efficiency."

Meetings of local governments are a different matter, however. Decisions made there affect all of the citizens involved -- and often involve spending tax money taken from those citizens under force of law.

The McCook Board of Education, which spends more local tax money than any other local government, recently did just that, dropping a two-reading policy, albeit on a 4-2 vote.

The problem is, democracy is anything but "efficient," and was never intended to be. In the words of Otto von Bismarck, "Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made."

We've seen too many rushed decisions that had to be -- or should have been -- reversed once they saw the sober light of day.

If there's a true urgency in passing an ordinance or policy, the board already has the power to suspend the three-reading rule.

It's too easy for members of a governing body to go along with a bad decision in the interest of "efficiency" or to please other board members.

It's also true that the human mind is capable of better choices once it has been given a good night's sleep -- or several weeks worth, for that matter.

And, any governing body that's worth its salt is open to hearing all sides of an issue, even those that are not popular.

That's why the Gazette continues to attend public meetings, even though most of them are boring and sometimes as messy as making sausage.

And that's why the public should continue to get three chances to speak out on pending laws and policies.

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