April 04, 2007

Answering the over $400 Million Dollar Quetions? or Is Mum the Word???

Summit City Common Council president Diane Klaif is to be commended this week for not yielding to pressure to shut down residents who make inquiries at council meetings, even where decisions have already been made. She stated that, as long as she is council president, she “will not discourage discussion of issues that are concerns to citizens of Summit”. It is apparent that Ms Klaif not only is patient but is aware how rumors get started and that she is a proponent of transparency in government.

Freeholder Adrian Mapp is also to be given an A++. During freeholder reports/comments portion of this weeks meeting he recommended that the Freeholder Board adhere to a policy to answer any and all questions of all residents regardless of race, creed, color, political side of the fence or weather they prefer their ice cream with or without hot fudge sauce. In short, he made it clear that anyone who has a question should be answered. Board Chairwoman BJ Kowalski jumped in with “Freeholder Policy is to respond to all serious questions.”

Upon hearing that I instantly decided to check out just what is the policy and who decides which questions are serious enough to deserve answers. Generally the board announces that this portion of the meeting is for comments only and has been known to address questions with a response of “We don’t have to answer the public’s questions” but more often than not no response at all.

The Bylaws of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders- Speaks of questions????

The Board of Chosen Freeholders has bylaws containing the rules of procedure for conducting meetings and functions as well as rules of conduct and the path to follow when the public is allowed to speak during certain portions of the meetings.

Item 12 PUBLIC SESSION, At this time the public may address the board on any resolution on the agenda. A member of the public shall be limited to (1) appearance and shall speak for no more than five (5) minutes. All questions from the public shall be directed through the Chairman. …..Members (freeholders) will direct their questions or comments through the Chairman and shall limit their responses to the individual member of the public who is speaking to the board at that time.”

Item 15 SECOND PUBLIC SESSION. At this time the public may address the board on any subject over which the Board has the power to exercise its authority. The same rules for the first public session shall apply with regard to public participation.” The bylaws also indicate that if a situation arises not covered in the Freeholder document that Roberts Rules of Order, Revised, shall prevail.

Our all democrat freeholder board has interrupted these bylaws to suit themselves while not protecting the residents ability to have their concerns addressed. Clearly illustrated at the last meeting when the inquiries of only one out of three residents were addressed. Freeholder Mapp’s request speaks volumes when he referred to individuals on the opposite side of the political fence, are they not contributing to the “county pot of gold”?

What constitutes a serious question?

And as for serious questions are not those regarding the county jail and detention center or the use of county vehicles or the budget not serious? Perhaps Chairwoman Kowalski can expand on what she believes to be a “serious question” or comment. Does she not believe that the taxpayers’ finances are serious? Has there been a concerted effort to avoid the really hard questions as not only the opposition party but residents are now starting to hold their feet to the fire as well.

Who's questions get answered?

Did Mapp let the cat out of the proverbial bag and is willing to be a proponent of transparency in county government since up for reelection he has been denied the support of the UC Democratic Committee and replaced on the line by a “good soldier”? Has he been stifled since taking office and now has nothing to loose? Only time will tell but for now he deserves encouragement to continue on the path on which he seems to have embarked.