One would assume that elected officials would want to make sure they are receiving public input throughout the time a major course of action is being examined. Having verifiable facts, in addition to a range of views for consideration, produces better decisions by the political leadership. But the town of Elkton creates significant challenges for stakeholders hoping to offer constructive comments or to simply stay informed on what’s happening.
Last Week they held two important workshops where substantial town business was discussed. Below you will see the complete announcement informing the public of one of those sessions. At those gatherings important deliberations took place about the recreation center land deal, the tight fiscal times the town is facing, taxes, utility related matters, and more. All of these were important discussions, but the announcement on Elkton’s web site gives you no indication of the significance of those deliberations.
That strikes us as an unusual practice so we wondered what the normal protocols were for other municipal governments. To answer that query we surfed over to Chesapeake City’s virtual home on the web. Notice the town of Chesapeake City publishes a comprehensive agenda detailing items under discussion at its workshops.
They also include time for public input, something Elkton does not permit at these sessions. At the meeting we attended on Oct. 8 a young lady, along with her daughter, was there to say something to the commissioners that surely was important to her. Obviously she was unfamiliar with public meeting norms in Elkton so she was not permitted to speak at the workshop. Other than us, the only other guests there were this lady and her daughter. It wasn’t like allowing her to say something would’ve opened the meeting up to hours of public input. We know we’re not allowed to comment there so we sit quietly on the sidelines, keyboarding and blogging.
Workshops in Elkton are the most important part of the decison chain for in those elected officials discuss items and determine if there’s support for moving ahead with a straw vote. If there is, it’s brought up at the regular meeting so a formal vote can be recorded. The presentation of information, fact-finding, deliberation, negotations and other things citizens would find helpful for understanding the topic, are explored at the workshops where one does not know what’s being examined. In addition, the session does not allow for public participation. At the regular meeting, the one time a month when the public is allowed to comment for 5-minutes when everything is over, it’s essentially a done deal. All the insightful discussion occurred at meetings where there is minimal public attendance, perhaps because the public doesn’t know what they examining.
Surely the commissioners know what they’re meeting for don’t they? Why not share that insight to make it easier for the public to monitor deliberations? Why not allow the public to comment? Notice what Chesapeake City does.