Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1998



Publication Title

New Directions for Teaching and Learning

First Page


Last Page



Maria clutches the papers tightly. After over two hours of waiting through reports, announcements, awards, and other agenda items that seemed much less urgent than hers, the chance to speak has nearly arrived. She looks at the determined face of the African American woman seated beside her, one of several residents living across the street from a trash incinerator that has brought pollution, disease, noise, and rats to their quiet neighborhood. At last, they would have the opportunity to tell their story to elected officials who could do something about it. Maria glances down at the statistics that took her hours to research, hard data that would convince the county board of supervisors to act at last. As the chairman finally utters the words, “Time for public comment,” she rises to her feet. Before she can open her mouth, the chairman slams down the gavel: “Meeting adjourned.” As the supervisors file quickly out of the room, Maria stares in disbelief, her papers slipping from her hands to the floor. “We didn’t even have our say!” she sputters. “How could they get away with it? Isn’t this supposed to be a democracy?”


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