You could call it a comedy of errors, but the local residents flooding our inboxes and voicemails weren’t laughing.
Still, the absurdity of how the Board of Supervisors went about handling the county’s rapid-response childcare program — and how quickly they reversed course on some key details — leaves us throwing our hands up in the air and flashing a defeated smile.
Supervisors this week excluded from the program the two county library branches that had been reduced to curbside pickup earlier this month in order to serve as locations for the childcare program. It turns out they weren’t needed after all. Well how about that?
With this week’s decision, the board hoped to make moot the voices of critics and constituents who were outraged over not only the library closures, but also how the decision was made. And that’s an important point here.
As we suggested a couple weeks ago, the plan with regards to the libraries wasn’t going to be as consequential as the process by which the board put the wheels in motion.
Supervisors, if you recall, took a straw vote by email during their August recess and began implementing the scheme before any formal vote — or, more importantly, public input and feedback — was put into place. No public briefing, no public notification, no call for community input.
Does anyone believe the board would’ve opted to close two libraries (that didn’t even turn out to be needed) had the item come up for a public hearing?
Fortunately, the library branches reopened after just 10 business days, but there were casualties before the reconsideration.
Denis Cotter, the library system’s board chairman who wasn’t consulted prior to the decision to restrict access to the two branches, resigned amid the hubbub.
The biggest casualty here, however, was transparent and communicative government. These decisions — any decisions — being made without being placed on an agenda the public can peruse, without taking input from library officials, without even meeting in the same room to discuss the topic, amount to a wreckage of poor judgment and unchecked arrogance. We hope supervisors remember the uprising their decision-making-by-inbox caused, and that they’ll think twice before doing it again.
It’s a simple concept, but one elected officials across Loudoun — not just those at the county level — seem intent on forgetting or forgoing time and time again: Government is at its best when its constituents are informed, engaged and have a chance to offer their voices.