Friday, July 31, 2015

The Public Forum not welcome in Adams County

[From the Gettysburg Times, Thursday, July 30, 2015, page A5: Proposals continued from page A1, under the byline of Alex J. Hayes]

"...All three commissioners assured him that public comment is welcome at every meeting.  

'You can talk to us at any time,' Phiel said.  'We appreciate it here and we appreciate it individually...'

'...Phiel explained that the commissioners do not believe the meetings are the appropriate place for an open dialogue.  He said such back and forth can bog down the meeting's progress and urged those who want a dialogue to contact the commissioners individually.  The commissioners are open to responding to concerns such as they did on Wednesday, he added."
Unbelievable!  "...the commissioners do not believe the meetings are the appropriate place for an open dialogue.  He said such back and forth can bog down the meeting's progress and urged those who want a dialogue to contact the commissioners individually..."

That makes the public Commissioners Meeting nothing more than a "dog and pony show."

That meeting is the public forum, it exists in that format so the public can address the commissioners, ask questions, express opinions, and have discussions about whatever business is being conducted, and to create "new business" for the next meeting.  If that becomes too burdensome for the Commissioners, then they need to find another job.  They work for the very people "...who bog down the meeting's progress..."

Hey Commissioners, those folks are your bosses.  You work for them.  They give you your marching orders, and you do not have a say in how they do it except to structure the meetings to allow it.  If they need more time, call another meeting.  Maybe if you spent less time in "executive session" and more time listening to your constituents in the established open forum, things might actually run better.  

Maybe you should ask for volunteers to serve on committees to oversee County Government, Infrastructure, County Employees, Taxes, and so on, to cover all the business the County does.

Mr. W. G. Davis wrote in in Fixing Local Government, Part 4:
"Something is wrong with a governmental process that sets in motion decision-making at closed-to-the-public-meetings [work or executive sessions] where decisions are made, and then public meetings are held for public comment, before taking the “official vote” on the decision that was already made in the earlier private “work session.” 

"That stinks!

"Pardon me, but these are elected officials, who work for the taxpayers, who are put in office by the voters, and who are responsible to every person in their township, school district or county as the case may be.  If the public, and the fourth estate are not permitted to observe the workings of government, even the disagreements, and political wranglings, then you no longer have a government that is responsible to the people, but a government of dictatorial elites that rule by fiat, that make backroom deals, and put polish on them for the public meetings.  Even personnel matters should be publicly discussed.  Employees, too, work for the public.  In addition to the presence of a reporter at each and every meeting, the minutes of each meeting should be published within two days, and the agenda and schedule for the next meeting should be printed a week beforehand.  And space rates for those two items to be published in the local paper should be budgeted by the townships and the County – and the school board! 

"James Madison wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”  That is what has occurred here, in Adams County, and in other areas as well.  It is a shameful abridgment of the contract between the electorate and the elected. 

"And Abraham Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”  How is it possible to gain the measure of public sentiment when decisions are made before the public is allowed to speak? 

"This needs to stop and it needs to stop  now!"
We at GettysBlog agree with this sentiment completely.  It is obvious to us that these Commissioners have absolutely corrupted the system of county government and deserve to be thrown from office in November.

Let's elect commissioners in November who work for the people, and don't stifle public interest or input, who don't make decisions in Executive session then go hold public meetings and pretend you'll change your minds.  End Executive Sessions.  If there are disagreements, air them in public.  That is what the Commissioner's Meetings are for.  Government must be visible to be acceptable responsible, responsive and open.  Adams County government is anything but!

Good grief!  Whatever happened to that sentiment that Abraham Lincoln spoke of so eloquently here in November of 1863.  You know, at the end, when he said, "...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."  Seems to us here at GettysBLOG that the part about "...government of the people, by the people, for the people..." has gotten twisted way out of shape here in the very county where Lincoln gave that magnificent speech.  He wasn't just talking about the Federal government, but all government in this nation. 

A certain group of office holders need to stop feeling so self- important and elitist and start working for the people again. 


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