People Caring Loudly
In this post, I’m going to focus on the Board of County Commissioners. I attended my second (and definitely not my last) Board meeting on Monday night. The Board, comprised of seven members, is the policymaking body for the county. My favorite thing—and, in my opinion, one of the most important things—about these meetings is that citizens have the chance to interact with the people who represent them and make decisions on their behalf. There is time for public comments at every meeting, and not only have citizens attended both meetings I’ve gone to, but they have participated as well!
The first meeting I attended on my first day on the job included a public hearing on the 2015-2016 budget. If you want to know what’s important to community members, attend a budget hearing. People spoke passionately about the school system and public health, raising concerns about potential decreases in funding. The comment period lasted more than an hour and concluded with the Board agreeing to further examine items in the budget before approving it.
The meeting I attended two days ago was less intense and definitely less crowded, but there was still an interesting discussion about the budget, particularly about funding and the Board of Education. One of the commissioners engaged in a 20-minute conversation with a community member who was concerned about the education system in the county. Both men raised their concerns and explained their opinions, and even though they didn’t agree on everything, they still had a civil, issues-based discussion. Oh, the beauty of participation!
In public administration, we often talk about how to engage citizens in government. Why don’t more citizens attend public meetings? Why don’t more citizens actively participate? While the public budget hearing was certainly more crowded than a normal Board meeting, the fact that citizens attended both meetings says something. Sure, people who are particularly passionate about something are more likely to participate, but as I spend more time here, I’m curious to see how active the community is in local government operations. Does involvement extend beyond attending Board of Commissioners meetings?
We have our first meeting about the website redevelopment project next week, so be on the lookout for updates about that! As always, feel free to leave a comment!
Local Gov Love,