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EDITORIAL: By limiting public input, supervisors quell citizen voices

In a representative democracy, participation by the people in the business of government is both a right and an obligation. But in Loudoun County, the right and the obligation have been restricted because governing is keeping the supervisors up past their bedtime.

At a time when the input of residents is vital in determining how growth is overtaking the county, the Board of Supervisors has voted to avert late-night voting sessions by limiting public input at its regular business meetings to 30 minutes.

This is the same board that, just a few months ago, voted to increase supervisors’ salaries by more than 60 percent.

It’s the same board that continually turns a deaf ear to to citizens who express their concerns and positions over a range of issues.

That makes the decision to limit public input at the county’s official business meeting both deaf and dumb.

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, argues Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R- Ashburn). Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) also supported the restriction on public input.

The four supervisors don’t get it. Citizens deserve every opportunity to address their government representatives. There should be more time for public comment, not less. Constituents with something to say gladly stay up late to be heard at the public meetings.

We don’t question that citizens have multiple ways to be heard. They can testify at public hearings, send an email, text or leave a message for a supervisor. Some choose to write an op-ed piece or letter to the editor to the Times-Mirror when their concerns are dismissed or when they feel they have not been heard. We encourage such submissions, and publish them, including those by supervisors.

Every supervisor should understand what it means for everyday citizens to have their voices heard. Public service starts with listening. There’s little that means more to a citizen than to participate meaningfully at the official business meeting of the county.

The right to be heard is a cherished American principle that should not be diminished in any form. Supervisors should encourage more input, not restrict the time it currently allots for it. More participation by residents is required at this moment in the county’s history to counter-balance the attention granted developers, land-use attorneys and special interests.

The supervisors should put a bad idea to bed. There’s a better way for the public to be heard and for decisions in the county’s interest to unfold before bedtime: Start earlier.

The people will come.

Comments


Looks like Randall will not condemn the KKK from the dais cause she declares them terrorists. Makes sense that she thinks so highly of herself!


Another hypocritical editorial from the newspaper that censors readers with impunity.


Bubble up management takes more time than leading with priorities. Far too many times a politically active group collects hundreds of people who say the same thing one hundred times which is an insult to a community run organization with highly qualified participants. Loudoun has some very highly paid administrative executives who could easily coordinate the issues, collect public comment/challenges making meetings far more productive than the current free for all atmosphere. Major issues should be focused on and reported on at EVERY MEETING!
Bob Ohneiser Esq.


For goodness sake do not clap, boo or hiss cause Randall will clear the room and any further comments will end.


The BoS think they are smarter than everyone else….


Randall wants to curtail public input to only weekend BoS meetings.


Laugh, fair point.  I guess being paid $41,200 is too little for the current BOS members to start 1-2 hours early 2-3 times per month so all speakers may be heard.  I’m glad you clarified your position on that. 

Tell us, is the new $67K/year salary in 2020 still too little to inconvenience you for a few hours per month?


I guess reading comprehension has gone out the window.  Sorry, but the current Board of Supervisor members do NOT earn “a salary newly equivalent to the median single-earner income in Loudoun.”  That takes place for the next Board of Supervisors, not this one.  I guess convenience of argument sometimes gets in the way of reality.


I have no problem with supervisors being paid enough to attract more candidates that are neither wealthy nor retired. That it took a 60% increase to do it is a result of the political optics of such increases: they always get put off for years and years until, to catch up, they seem preposterously large.

That said, my board had no problem holding meetings when people could come and we had no limits on the number of speakers. The day may come when the lines just get too long, but the LTM is right in saying that getting the meeting over with before midnight is no excuse for cutting off input. I agree with their solution: start earlier.


Let’s assume the Supervisors were sincere in their desire to have votes occur earlier in the evening.  These Supervisors now earn a salary newly equivalent to the median single-earner income in Loudoun. Can’t they take a half-day off and start at 2pm or 3:30 while still holding public comments at 6 or 6:30?

Thus, it is pretty clear this decision had absolutely nothing about timing. Rather, it prevents Supervisors like Ralph Buona from getting called to the carpet when he twists Lansdowne HOA’s arm to bypass informing its residents when extending neighborhood privileges to NCC townhomes so the BOS can take an expedited vote. (a point recently made by a connected resident but not reported elsewhere) You know, from the public speakers informing the community what is really going on behind the scenes while we were not looking.

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