Tuesday, August 8, 2006

County budget hearings not accessible

----Original Message Follows----
From: Scott Tibbs <tibbs1973@yahoo.com>
To: swest@co.monroe.in.us, tjones@co.monroe.in.us, mhawk@co.monroe.in.us, mstoops@co.monroe.in.us, whenegar@co.monroe.in.us, stravis@co.monroe.in.us, mwoods@co.monroe.in.us
CC: Kurt Van der Dussen <kvanderdussen@heraldt.com>, am1370@gmail.com, news@wfhb.org
Subject: Inaccessibility of county budget hearings
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2006 16:59:49 -0700 (PDT)

It is budget time again, and the Monroe County Council will be going through marathon budget sessions. But as you go though three days of extended hearings on the budget, I hope you will consider the accessibility (or more accurately, the inaccessibility) of the budget process. The county Web site lists the hearings as going from 9:00 a.m. to past 4:30 p.m. on Monday, from 9:00 a.m. to past 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, and from 9:00 a.m. to past 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The problem with this schedule is it virtually eliminates the opportunity for working people to attend these budget hearings, because virtually all of the hearings take place during the work day. It also creates a hardship for working people who wish to serve on the County Council. Unless someone has a flexible enough schedule to accommodate these budget hearings (or is willing to sacrifice a few days' vacation for the August budget hearings) it would be difficult to attend all of the meetings.

This is not the only problem with county meeting schedules. The 9:00 a.m. start time for County Commissioners meetings is during most people's work days. When the Commissioners are considering highly charged issues like the animal control ordinance, the smoking ordinance, or a controversial development, many Monroe County citizens are unable to make the meetings.

Contrast this to the budget hearings for city government, which start at 6:00 p.m. The City Council also starts their regular weekly meetings at 7:30 p.m. While this also creates an accessibility problem when the rare highly controversial topic can push a meeting past 11:00 at night, City Council meetings are generally more accessible than both County Commissioner meetings and (to a lesser extent) monthly County Council meetings that start at 4:30 p.m.

While the budget hearings are on CATS television, not everyone has cable and going to the public library for a copy of meeting tapes can be an inconvenience. I would urge both the County Council and County Commissioners to consider rescheduling your budget sessions and your regular meetings. (Especially the County Commissioner meetings.) Since you are making decisions on tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, I think it is imperative that the work sessions where you make these decisions be scheduled so most people who pay for those budgets (and your salaries and benefits) can attend the meetings.

Scott Tibbs