After months of study, discussion and analysis, a proposal for a downtown Rocky Mount event center will at last take center stage for public comment early next week. Here’s hoping the discussion will be both lively and balanced.
It’s a big project. Rocky Mount City Manager Charles Penny and two professional consultants who have studied its feasibility have plenty of information to share with the audience during a public hearing that has been set for Monday night at City Hall.
On a project as potentially expensive and as nuanced as this, it’s important for supporters to have a full opportunity to make their case, and we trust Mr. Penny and advisers to do that. But it is equally important for the citizens of Rocky Mount to have a full opportunity to express their views on the proposal.
It’s hard to project today how many people will attend Monday’s public hearing. But if the audience fills City Council chambers, as we suspect it will, then a single comment period on the heels of what is likely to be a lengthy presentation might not be enough to afford a full airing of the public’s views. Even with a three-minute limit on the comments of each person who stands up to speak, there’s a chance that many people will not have the opportunity, especially if the hearing extends well into the night.
Should that be the case, we would urge Mayor David Combs and City Council members to consider adjourning at a reasonable hour, then offering the public another chance to continue the discussion on at least one or more other evenings.
Doing so would benefit both sides. Citizens would feel they had a fair shot at sharing their views – for or against – with their elected representatives. City Council members, meanwhile, could begin to deliberate on the proposal, confident of knowing where their constituents stand.
On an issue as big as this, everyone needs to take a deep breath and listen.