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What constitutes a "public meeting"?

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I've been a counselor for Communication merit badge for over 5 years and I often get scouts asking me to sign off on requirement 5 because they attended a neighborhood homeowners meeting (HOA). I generally tell them, "No. That's not a public meeting, it is a private organization."

Do any of you folks who are Communication MBCs count things like HOA meetings?  How about counting it towards Citizenship in the Community? 

 

REQUIREMENT AS WRITTEN:

5. Attend a public meeting (city council, school board, debate) approved by your counselor where several points of view are given on a single issue. Practice active listening skills and take careful notes of each point of view. Prepare an objective report that includes all points of view that were expressed, and share this with your counselor.

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I would not count it for either of the above 2 merit badges.  It is not one of the type meeting listed for the Citizenship in the Community merit badge.

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It depends.  What is a "public" meeting?  The term public is not at all clear.  If the meeting is announced, then it is public.  HOAs are non-profits by default in many states.  I researched Florida and another state.  So a scheduled announced open meeting for a non-profit is not a public meeting?  If not, then what is the boundary?  

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I remember we discussed this at one point, and it seemed that the consensus was that it counted. Most likely it could fall under "debate".

I tried to find the link, but failed.

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As a counselor for Citizenship, I would not count an HOA meeting as public.  A public meeting is where the public is involved or informed.  This could be City, Town, County meetings or some type of community informational meeting.

An HOA meeting does not really involve the public.  Notices are sent to members, but rarely is the general public notified.  Decisions there do not affect the public, only the members.

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58 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

It depends.  What is a "public" meeting?  The term public is not at all clear.  If the meeting is announced, then it is public.  HOAs are non-profits by default in many states.  I researched Florida and another state.  So a scheduled announced open meeting for a non-profit is not a public meeting?  If not, then what is the boundary?  

Attend a meeting of your city, town, or county council or school board; OR a municipal; county, or state court session. - Citizenship in the Community

  1. Attend a public meeting (city council, school board, debate) approved by your counselor where several points of view are given on a single issue. Practice active listening skills and take careful notes of each point of view. Prepare an objective report that includes all points of view that were expressed, and share this with your counselor. - Communication

 

Considering that HOA meetings are not one of the kind listed in the requirement for Citizenship I would definitely not accept it there. Also, considering that HOA meetings can be restricted to members only I would not look at it as a public meeting of the kind that either MB is looking for.  (yes, I am a MB counselor for both)

Edited by MikeS72

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I wouldn't accept a HOA meeting, but I would accept a meeting of a public "Neighborhood Association".

I also just told someone no last week when asked about going to a Religious discussion/debate meeting at their church.

 

When scouts come to me with complaints about getting to a City Council or School Board meeting, I usually suggest they look for Zoning Board meetings for variances or Planning Board meetings.  Those are often contentious enough to get the "several points of view".

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I believe the intent of the Communication requirement is to experience a public debate. 

As much as I would enjoy listening to a 45 minute diatribe on what species of grass should be planted in the common areas, I doubt an HOA meeting would have a debate of any real substance. If a scout can't attend a city council or school board meeting in person, my PBS station frequently hosts debates on local issues. I've accepted reports on that before.

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3 minutes ago, elitts said:

When scouts come to me with complaints about getting to a City Council or School Board meeting, I usually suggest they look for Zoning Board meetings for variances or Planning Board meetings.  Those are often contentious enough to get the "several points of view".

Our City Council meetings are a pain for most scouts because they are held during the day when kids should be in school.

School board meetings are easy though. Texas has these "ISDs" --- independent school districts ---- and there are a LOT of them.  Most ISDs hold board meetings in the evening, and if your local school board meets on an inconvenient night of the week, you can always drive a few miles to the next ISD. I think we must have at least 12 ISDs in and around the city of Houston...

A patrol (or troop) could even do an activity one evening to go to a public meeting as a group. Might make it more fun for everyone... 

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The definition of a public meeting is broader than some people realize, but I don't think an HOA falls into that category. A public meeting is generally something that is noticed to the public by some branch of government and is part of a body that has a public comments session run by Roberts rule of order. Any kind of national, state, regional, county or municipal body and its subcommittees or offices would qualify. Public notice means that the public is made aware of the meeting in advance, generally within a specified time frame, and an agenda published. The public body does not have to be a city, township, or school board meeting, but could also be any one of a number of other public subcommittees such as parks, zoning, health, environmental commission, court related hearings, etc., etc. 

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I wouldn't count an HOA meeting unless there was no alternative. I do think the the word attend can mean watch on-line when its not possible to be there in person.

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Now, let's not say no yet.   A HOA can be very interesting. Let's assume the Scout's home is in this association.  It is a "public" meeting, altho a limited public, I should think.  Things need to be decided, bills paid, problems solved, neighbors need to work together.... Might not be as large as a County Council meeting, but hey, this is what democracy is about.   HOA I would hope includes all the HO invited, not just the  (?) trustees or commissioners or what ever you might call the leadership.  

Ask the Scout about what he saw/heard.  How were things run, decided....   Did he notice any "tendencies"?  How did it compare with how his family makes decisions?  His Troop?   Does the PLC operate similarly?

My Scoutson attended the local neighboring Town Council Meeting.  Three Commissioners and a  dozen citizens.  I remember he reported some hearty back and forth, but civil discussion about a new by-pass being planned by the state. 

Next, the Scout might want to view some videos about the Nuremburg trials.....  

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On 9/23/2019 at 8:28 PM, SSScout said:

Now, let's not say no yet.   A HOA can be very interesting. Let's assume the Scout's home is in this association.  It is a "public" meeting, altho a limited public, I should think.  Things need to be decided, bills paid, problems solved, neighbors need to work together.... Might not be as large as a County Council meeting, but hey, this is what democracy is about.   HOA I would hope includes all the HO invited, not just the  (?) trustees or commissioners or what ever you might call the leadership.  

Ask the Scout about what he saw/heard.  How were things run, decided....   Did he notice any "tendencies"?  How did it compare with how his family makes decisions?  His Troop?   Does the PLC operate similarly?

My Scoutson attended the local neighboring Town Council Meeting.  Three Commissioners and a  dozen citizens.  I remember he reported some hearty back and forth, but civil discussion about a new by-pass being planned by the state. 

Next, the Scout might want to view some videos about the Nuremburg trials.....  

I think I would just be careful about HOA meetings.  Yes, some of them closely resemble public meetings.  Many of them are more like a corporate meeting and not very democratic. There is also the chance that they won't meet a quorum and thus will be entirely informational. 

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I'm on my HOA board.  We pretty carefully plan the "public" meeting to avoid debate.  I would point to the Cit in the Community list and tell the scout to convince me if they want to deviate from that list for Communications.

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On 9/23/2019 at 2:13 PM, fred8033 said:

If not, then what is the boundary?  

Public vs private institutions. If the organization burns taxpayer dollars it's a public meeting

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