Ask for suggestions, and often you get them, and sometimes you get some really good ones.
I have a collection of some that have come my way. Most are not directed toward me, for implementation, but the suggesters chose me as a conduit.
For instance, one person said it would be a good idea to have a suggestion box on or in every public building.
“I went over to the Court House and it was closed. They were closed four days in a row. I know they are always closed for the weekend. Plus they have holidays. I still think there should be a way to get something inside where it would be the same as delivered in the mail.
“Do you think it would be possible to have slots where people could put their tax payments and other things, so they would not have to make another trip?
“While I am on the subject, what about having something like a suggestion box in the Court House? If there was one outside, people could put in suggestions anytime. Or it could be in the lobby.
“That would also be an idea for all the governments to think about. There could be a suggestion box in the Borough Building. They could ask a Vo Tech class to make them.”
The first question was whether I think it would be possible to have slots for mail to county departments—presumably a slot (or box?) placed in the outer wall of the Court House. I have not looked to see whether there is such an arrangement now.
If there is not, it seems to me it would be a nice convenience for the public. But there might be security considerations. There have been many changes in public buildings because of security considerations, haven’t there!
As to the idea of suggestion boxes on or in other public buildings, I like it! That’s no indication that the people in charge would find it workable.
Meanwhile, there are other ways of making suggestions to government, government agencies and officials. One is to attend public meetings of government and its agencies—and most of them are required to be public. That includes committees meetings, board and commission meetings (such as planning), special meetings and work sessions. And in nearly all of those meetings there is a place on the agenda for public comments.
The press is a subset of the public. Also, we serve the same public the elected and appointed officials do, it seems to me. As a member of the press I like seeing other members of the public at those meetings, and hearing comments from them. Sometimes those are the most interesting part of a meeting! In many cases they do add considerably to the content. A question or comment at a public meeting is “on the record,” whereas questions asked privately are not.
People can call and write to and e-mail government figures, asking questions, offering suggestions.
On this very page there is a place for what I like to call lettitors. Writers read, you know—we even read each other’s columns (at least I do). And readers write.
Still, I understand that sometimes people feel that they can speak more freely if they are anonymous. We accept the idea that the secret ballot is an important bulwark of democracy. Without it, could we feel safe in voting our convictions? Aren’t there situations in which people can’t provide their valuable information or viewpoints openly for fear of retaliation? Maybe the punitive action would be against a family member, even a child. At least that is the fear.
In those cases, the opportunity to “suggest anonymously” would be welcome, I think. A slot in the side of the Borough Building? Well, maybe that would work, but if we use it by day, that isn’t very anonymous. If by night, would the suggester be suspected of “loitering and prowling by night”?
There are other interesting suggestions here in my file, and I plan to pass some of them on to you soon. Meanwhile, I’m always happy to receive more of your ideas.
Someone did send me a warning that I had better not forget to write my Woodchuck Column. “This has been a hard winter so far and we do not need it to be a minute longer than average,” this correspondent points out. Point taken.
Peace (but not to marmots).