Nobody Else Is Doing It?

Bill Neinast

“But everyone else is doing it.”  Every parent who has told a child she could not do something has heard that protest.

The reverse of that protest was heard at the Washington County Commissioners’ Court meeting last Wednesday. There the reason for not doing something was, “Nobody else is doing it.”

This from a county that prides itself in setting the standard for so many activities throughout the state.  Doing what no one else was doing includes things like Washington County EMS leading the state in innovations that provide unusual helpful services in responding to frequent repeat callers on the 911 service.   Also, Dr. Stuart Jaffe’s system of reducing the number of prisoner transfers to the hospital for routine care is being adopted in many other counties.

So what was this radical proposal that could not be adopted because it was not being done by anyone else?

There was a suggestion that the wording of a frequently recurring item of the court’s agenda be changed.  Currently, those items read, “Discuss and act upon the nomination of a candidate to fill a vacancy on the XYZ board.”   The County Judge and Commissioners know the identity of the candidate, but it is a deep dark secret to everyone else until a motion is made in a court session to approve John Doe to fill the vacancy.

The suggestion was to have those agenda items read, “Discuss and act on the nomination of John Doe to fill a vacancy on the XYZ board.”  That is what cannot be done because no one else is doing it.

One commissioner noted that someone from the audience might suggest someone else for the nomination and that could not be considered.  Considering another person for the post seems, however, to fall squarely within the first word of the agenda item to “discuss” the nomination.  If the discussion raised questions about John Doe’s qualifications for the job, the court could vote either  to disapprove Doe or to table the motion and schedule an open workshop to discuss potential candidates.

Although the court does not want to be the leader on this topic, it is a shining example of leadership in another area.

The Washington County Commissioners Court is one of the few public forums in the state that allows visitors to participate in the court’s discussions.  In other forums, anyone wanting to address an agenda item has to complete a form with his name and the topic in which he is interested.  Then, the session will open with a public comment session where the visitor’s will be given a limited time to make his presentation.

The forum members will listen to the presentation with solemn, bored looks as they are thinking, “When can we get down to real business?”  If the agenda item the visitor is addressing happens to be among the last items on the agenda, one can only guess how much of the visitors comments will be remembered.

The chairpersons in those forums apparently think that meetings would get out of control if they let every Tom, Dick, and Harry off the street ask for their attention while they are in discussion.  Those chairpersons either forget that they control the gavel and can rule anyone out of order, and, if appropriate, order the obnoxious visitor out of the chambers or they are afraid to use their authority.

So here’s the perspective.

Come on Washington County Commissioners and County Judge, step up to the plate.  Assume the leadership role the way you do in so many other areas.    


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