Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My letter to Muskegon county commissioners

An open letter to our Muskegon County commissioners:
Lady and gentlemen Commissioners:

On May 19, a gentleman who appeared to be blind, was led into the commissioner's board room and asked if this was the Transportation committee meeting.
Unfortunately, that meeting had been canceled two days earlier. ( http://co.muskegon.mi.us/boardofcommissioners/minutes/waysmeans_11_05_17.pdf    pg. 4 "New Business")
The unfortunate citizen had no way of knowing the committee meeting was canceled unless he'd read the minutes of the ways and means committee meeting posted online two days before. The agenda for the Transportation Committee was left with a dead link for the day. He quietly accepted his inconvenience. No board member offered an apology.

Last week a, highly unusual, special meeting of the Public Works committee was called at the beginning of the Full Board meeting.
"AWARD THE CONTRACT FOR “COST OF SERVICE CONSULTING” TO
PERFORM A RATE DESIGN STUDY FOR THE WASTEWATER SYSTEM
PER THE SPECIFICATIONS IN RFP 11-1884 TO UTILITY FINANCIAL
SOLUTIONS FOR $24,585."
There was no explanation why this hurried, special meeting was needed just 12 days after the last Public Works meeting. It was simply put in front of the commissioners with little time for them to vet or understand, voted on and voted on again a few minutes later by the full board.
There was no public notice of this special meeting.

The commissioners have recently called for monthly "planning sessions". These are important, intensive and informal meetings intended to address major issues facing our county. They are also, by law, public meetings requiring adequate notice to the public. There has been a board policy of providing no specific public notice for the date, time or location of these meetings. Sometimes a mention in a committee's minutes. Sometimes not even that. One would have to read, in great detail, every one of the committee or full board minutes to find this nugget of information. If it was available at all.


Our commissioners will soon face tremendous challenges as they try to maintain county services and keep our county solvent.
They will need more than citizen committees and consultants to deflect the criticism likely to arise from the tough decisions ahead.
They will need the confidence and good will of the citizenry.
A citizenry that trusts our county leaders are honest and up front with the issues we all face.

Last minute meeting cancellations with no public notice, last minute spending items added to meetings different from the normal meeting with no public notice and no-public-notice at all for the very important "planning sessions" are not the way to engender public trust or support.

Gentlemen and gentle lady, this e-mail is not just a complaint.

It is a request that you all support changes that will address the problems of communication with those who have given you your great responsibility and their trust.

Debt Clock

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