Writings and observations

Whole lotta Powerpoint

Can’t remember the book in which it appeared, but an author writing about the officers of the modern U.S. military, noting their love of crisp presentations, once remarked that it’s hard now to imagine the American military functioning if there were no Powerpoint.

It’s much the same in many other places. Go to a budget meeting, or a planning and zoning meeting, or almost any kind of meeting of a jurisdiction of medium or larger size, and you’ll probably be sitting through a Powerpoint presentation before long. (In case you just crawled out of a cave: Powerpoint is a Microsoft Corporation software that makes easy the production of a slide show presentation with text, graphs and images.)

There’s a curious subtlety involved. These Powerpoint presentations to commissioners, councils, legislative panels and others are almost always staff presentations. In many of these cases, staff is making a recommendation, which may not be unanimous and might be opposed from one or more angles in the public. But those public angles usually come across as more amateur and less thought-through, because they usually lack the slick multimedia presentation.

Enter Frosty Hardison of Federal Way. Some time ago he started showing up at city hall, prepared to present to the council, and submitted Powerpoint files he wanted shown. And they were shown.

The Federal Way council considered the question of citizen Powerpointing at its Tuesday meeting, and decided with some limitations to allow it. (Reasonable: Scanning for viruses and relevance to the matter at hand.) Council member Jim Ferrell suggested, “We need to send a message to the community that we value their input. This is about freedom of speech.”

It may be, at least, about ensuring that the public’s speech is absorbed the same way everyone else’s is.

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