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Loudoun supervisors vote to limit public input during meetings

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The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to limit public speaking during its regular business meetings to 30 minutes in an effort to ditch late-night voting sessions.

Previously, the board had no limit on time allocated to hear from the public during business meetings, but did restrict its speaking time to two to five minutes per individual. Now, everyone will have two to three minutes to speak.

“The logic is the public has a myriad of ways of expressing themselves to the board,” said Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R- Ashburn), who supported the change along with supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run).

Buona said that by allowing unlimited speaking time, supervisors don’t get around to voting on items until late into the meetings, sometimes when many residents have already gone to bed. In a county of more than 350,000 residents, only a small percentage usually participate in the public input sessions, he said. Most residents communicate with their supervisors via email or cellphone.

“It’s pretty rare that we go over 25 [speakers],” Buona said.

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) voted against the shift, saying she “couldn’t in good conscience vote to decrease the time the public speaks to us.”

“If we want to speed up meetings, maybe we should talk less,” Randall said.

Supervisors Koran Saines (D-Sterling) and Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) also voted against the restriction. Supervisors Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) were absent for the vote.

Letourneau said he didn’t believe the board was limiting the time the public has to speak to them, but allowing the board to conduct business at a reasonable hour.

“The reality is, anything that is a land-use issue goes to a public hearing. A public hearing has unlimited input,” he said, adding that the board also holds special public hearings on the budget before its passed each year.


Not even elected officials who think they know what is best for us want to hear facts that dispute their thoughts.

To one of Rusty’s point, what I have never heard is this:  the concerned citizen (or PAC) go back, do research, and then come forth and tell the BOS, remember that rezoning/project in 2011 that I said would cause X, Y, and Z to happen? well here are my findings, and I feel I’m correct. This new project has the same potential impacts. Therefore, I’m not just a hysterical chicken little, I’m a citizen with an issue and I can prove from I’m saying is more than hyperbole and fear mongering.

But I don’t recall ever hearing that. It’s all sorts of ‘what ifs’ and bogeyman ends of the worlds. And just plain opinion, which there is nothing wrong with. Just say “i hate it”, rather than, “it’s going to pollute the creek (stated as a fact)”.

C’mon folks.  Anybody who has had to sit through a list of self-important activists state the SAME point over and over and over and OVER knows this is a reasonable move.

You know the drill, some impassioned NIMBY person tries to convince you that this project will create scores of funerals or will reduce property values by double digits.

Its all the same, and in the end, NO human has the time, resources, or energy to let you drone on and on and ON.

I have watched from the crowd and, as a citizen I despise the waste of time that many “activists” feel is their right.

Good job BOS.

Bobby who makes the agenda and why was the limit brought up if Randall was not in favor. She is supposed to run the meeting, no? She has a history of limiting input. Think about it what if there are 10 different items on the agenda that the public wants to give their input about. Well sir if you ain’t one of the 12 speakers we will get you a ts chit to the chaplain. Ask yourself when the last time was a supervisor looked at the senior comment line.

I’d be curious to hear from any BOS or LCSB member that changed their minds due to someone speaking at their meetings? Most of the time they hide behind the claim of number of emails/phone calls backing something, of course showing no proof.

4 voted for the restriction. 3 voted against it. 2 were absent. It squeaked by. Throw your darts at the 4 - Ralph, Geary, Matt, and Ron. Jonathan Erickson smacks Randall - she voted AGAINST it. This is clearly not the will of the entire BOS, just 4 who happened to show up for work.

Bob makes a good suggestion - posting questions and answers online where folks can see it. Hmm, maybe a Facebook page?

It’s the same suggestion I have made to every leader/org over the last 20 years from the CO of my sub to this rotten school board. But the latter is why it will never happen.

LCSB and the BOS will never allow for full town halls where there is open dialogue on issues and pushback for nonsense answers. In fact, they only want 1-on-1 conversations so they can tell one story to this person and a completely different position to another. I mean look at the LCSB “leader” Jeff Morse. He had to take down his Facebook page else critics might point out all his illegal acts and inconsistent answers.

I am not suggesting all the officials are so duplicitous but we have clearly seen this from many (Randall talking about those crazy Eastern Loudoun types beind closed doors). The answer of course is to demand openness and honesty DURING a campaign else we end up with someone like Supervisor Letourneau telling us a $100M annual surplus is actually much less than what the audit says and that the inflated BOS/LCSB budget was very accurate ... wow!

Sad.  No BOS wants to hear from the public.  We vote them into office and need to vote them out pronto.

The only time we get to address them as a whole when they are not ignoring us because we live in another district and anti-free speech Randall get her wish once again. It says they are Loudoun supervisors but act like each district is a kingdom. Not one time in years outside of York did I ever receive a reply from a supervisor other then my own. Strong odors emitting from this board!

I agree with this change. I’ve been to a few meetings and it is always the same: People get up and say the same thing the five people before them did, and they take every bit of their 5 minutes to do so, usually trying to grab some extra time as well. People can always email their questions/comments/concerns.

“It’s pretty rare that we go over 25 [speakers],” Buona said.

Doesn’t that pretty much destroy any argument of why this change is needed in the first place?

We don’t want to be bothered by those people we were elected to represent. We want to just give the developers what they want with out the Citizens complaining. All in favor..

Did it all of a sudden become that more people are speaking or that those speaking are talking much longer.  Otherwise, that’s how it was when they ran for office and yet they wanted the job anyway.  If it’s too late, then perhaps it’s not the job for them.

After 8 years of school board meetings where hundreds of speakers would show up basically saying the same thing I understand the frustration, however, when any organization like the BOS refuses to publish its top ten issues and report on them at every meeting how can anyone establish what is an important item to allow full public input or to limit it. Many times it is the hesitant citizen with a personal issue that actually represents what should be a major policy shift and should be heard on a timely basis. Does the media fully cover all the input - NOT! Does an organization with many members get a bit more time for a formal presentation instead of having its members pound the Supervisors with many messages - NOT. This is pretty simple stuff to manage which I am somewhat disappointed Phyllis could not handle in a positive fashion other than just resist with a negative vote as chair. Representatives need to acknowledge those they represent ALL THE TIME! Nobody said pubic input could only be provided during evening meetings or at every meeting. Why not publish a written answer to every input made online so responses could be absorbed by all citizens not just the ones who come to the meetings? When will priorities and major issues be published and reported on? (composite index, lower tax rate, assessments made more fairly including non-profits like hospitals and HHMI, REAL traffic improvements, Dulles Airport land returned to Virginia control, VDOT does its job, file state paper work so cigarette taxes can be collected by county and of course better control LCPS operational and capital spending.)
Bob Ohneiser Esq.

There’s a 99% chance that the public will speak against any new development.  There’s also a 99% chance that the input won’t really make a difference in their vote.  Might as well save everyone’s time and limit these meetings, as the result will be the same.

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