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From the Desk of
County Councilman Kirby Delauter

(9/2015) This month I am writing about some changes that I think we should consider for the newly formed Charter of Frederick County. Some of the procedural issues I see are a lack of communication and a lack of clear meeting agendas as well. Councilman Billy Shreve and I have both stated that we think there should be public comment at the beginning of the meetings. A lot of people come to meetings to speak about various issues either on or not on a particular agenda. Why should we make them sit through 2, 3 or 4 hours of a meeting in order to give their comments? In this case, a lot of people just wonít show up since they may not be able to stay throughout the meeting. Some meetings allowed public comment at the beginning but the standard has seem to have been set to not allow this. My opinion is, ( just as we did in the last Young BoCC ) we allow public comment before and after each meeting. Anything less just tells taxpayers you really donít care about their opinions.

Another issue I see that should be changed is that during the second reading of the Bill, which is the public Hearing on the Bill, the Council cannot answer specifics from people raising questions at the hearing. While I agree there should not be an open dialogue, which tends to get the meeting off track and off topic there should however, be answers from Council members to specific questions from public comment. Currently, as you may have seen in the English as the official language public hearing, the room was full, we had a lot of public comment, yet the Council was not allowed ( by the Council President ) to answer questions while the public was still in the room. Instead, the room was cleared, we went on to another issue, then we were allowed to speak at the end of the meeting during Council comments after most, if not all people in attendance, had gone. This is useless and does not allow for open and transparent government which is what we should be about.

Another change that should be made is that we should vote on the issue at the public hearing. This is when things like public comment are fresh in everyoneís mind and when you can have the debate with concerned residents. As it currently stands, we vote at the third hearing which could be as much as a month from the date of the public hearing. That makes it very difficult to remember all of the information gathered at the hearing and one thing you lose in particular is the emotion that people had at that hearing. Even if you take copious notes, itís still difficult a month later to capture all items of importance that the hearing displayed.

This last issue deals with having our own legal counsel and budget officer. As of now, we rely on the County Executive to " allow" a County Attorney that works for the Executive, along with the Budget Officer, that also works for the Executive, to give us information and legal advice. As you may have seen with the Aurora situation, we find ourselves in a predicament where the Executive wants to sue Aurora and withhold their funding, while the Council may not. That places the Attorney representing the Council ( that works for the Executive ) in a very tough spot. Although the Counsel we have does an outstanding job, it would be far better if we had our own Council Attorney separate from the Executive advising us. Same for the Budget Officer, if the Executive doesnít want certain budget items looked into, she simply could have the Budget Officer stall the answers to Council members until a few hours prior or even after a hearing. Donít think that canít happen, because it has, especially in the case of Council member Shreve and myself.

These are just some issues I see that could be changed to make the process more open and to let people know that they are heard. You have to keep in mind, weíre not elected forever so how would we want a meeting to run if we were on the other side of the dais.

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