|Before the move to Courtroom 1|
I am a Sunshine Act fanatic. It's one of the few good things to come out of the land of midnight payraises. Though state legislators naturally exempted themselves, they require pretty much every other governing body to deliberate and vote in public. In addition, residents or taxpayers have the right to address these officials on "matters of concern" before any action is taken.
Last night, Council chambers were packed. People from all over the County were there. Corrections officers, Gracedale workers, row office and revenue clerks and Human Services caseworkers, By the time the meeting had started, there were well over 300 people. They had filled up the seats and were even lined up along the walls. Moreover, there were 22 people standing outside in the hallway, and they would be unable to hear or comment..
"Hey Bernie, why don't you give up your seat to one of the women?" taunted Mary Ann Schmoyer, who disrupted numerous meetings when John Stoffa was Executive. I had something else in mind.
Under the Sunshine Act, any person has the right to object to a perceived violation.
Over the years, reporters have usually raised these objections. But newspapers are dying. Last night, for example, The Morning Call failed to send anyone to cover a fairly critical meeting.
To their credit, County Council immediately agreed to move the meeting to Courtroom No. 1, which can accommodate larger crowds. In fact, the member of Council I criticize most frequently on this blog, Lamont McClure, made the motion.
The only concern Peg Ferraro had was that people at home would miss the livestream. My response is that the Sunshine Act gives people the right to participate, be present and comment, and there is no state law requiring a video. If one thing has to give, it would be the video.
After everyone moved into Courtroom No. 1, all those who wanted to speak were able to do so.
I thought the large audience, though loud, made every attempt to be respectful.
There were two exceptions.
While Executive John Brown was presenting his plan in more detail, one woman insisted on trying to talk over him.
"Can he shut up already?" she shouted at one point.
The second disruption occurred after the public had spoken, Controller Steve Barron, who had been sulking in the back, interrupted Mat Benol when he pointed out that the HR Director stated last year that the County's health care plan was a Cadillac plan.
"She was wrong then and she's wrong now," yelled Barron, who just two weeks ago stated he was unsure himself whether the County's health care plan is a Cadillac plan.
He was pandering.
|After the move to Courtroom 1|
Updated 11:00 a.m.: Turns out that The Morning Call had Christy Potter, a freelancer, cover the meeting. Sorry Christy.