Benton County commissioners' decision to move their weekly meeting time is a welcome first step, but they're still a long way from responding to the public's needs.
For decades, commissioners have met first thing Monday mornings in Prosser. We all know how Monday mornings are in an office. There are fires to put out and unexpected issues to attend to, in addition to the regular workload.
With much of Benton County's staff based in Kennewick, add on travel time to get to Prosser in time for an 8:30 a.m. meeting, and half of Monday is shot by the time it's over. Then they can finally get their day started.
But while the shift from Monday mornings to Tuesdays is no doubt easier on staff and others who must attend the meetings, we still think commissioners got it wrong.
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The day of the week isn't the problem. It's the time and location.
Tuesday is a common meeting day for municipalities and county governments, but regardless of what day they're held -- meetings at 8:30 a.m. in Prosser present a hardship for most county residents.
With the bulk of the county's population based in the Tri-Cities and employed during the day, the average citizen can't participate in county government without a financial sacrifice.
Benton County commissioners shouldn't favor those who can afford to take time off work and travel to Prosser. It's every resident's government, after all.
As it stands, the only people who attend on a regular basis are the commissioners and their staff. Add in those with an issue on a particular agenda item who feel strongly enough to make the trek, and that's about the size of it. And those folks usually leave after their item has been heard.
Maybe Benton County commissioners are afraid they'd develop too much of a following if they actually met where most people lived at a time when more could attend.
If you've been around city council meetings much, you'll know the evening hours attract diehard citizens who attend meetings weekly, just to keep watch on the government and the taxpayer dollars.
When Commissioner Shon Small brought up the idea of moving meetings to Tuesdays, he originally met with opposition from Commissioner Leo Bowman.
Bowman has served on the commission the longest and said a change would disrupt his routine. But Bowman came around and the resolution to change the meeting day passed unanimously.
Changing the day of the week for the meetings was a good move, but to truly serve their citizens, commissioners need to meet when it's convenient for the people, not just themselves and staff. Just because the county seat hasn't been moved to Kennewick, that doesn't mean meetings can't be held there.
The commissioners have occasionally met Wednesday mornings in Kennewick, but that still doesn't work for those of us with jobs. Neither does teleconferencing.
Were glad commissioners are open to change, but they need to go even further to accommodate the folks who pay the bills.