To hear or not to hear the public, that is the ques­tion

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The cat is fi­nally out of the bag. The county spokes­woman has given the green light.

The an­i­mal I am re­fer­ring to is the weird and un­known county pol­icy that there is no pol­icy re­quir­ing the plan­ning com­mis­sion to con­duct a public hear­ing prior to any im­pri­matur on a sub­di­vi­sion plat. The spokes­woman’s re­cent dec­la­ra­tion now com­pels the ques­tion: Why has the county ne­glected to con­struct and cre­ate a public hear­ing pol­icy? That asked, ev­ery­one in the lo­cal govern­ment — elected and ap­pointed — preaches the gospel of open govern­ment.

To say and iden­tify the ab­sence of pol­icy is too easy, if not in­tel­lec­tu­ally lazy, for a bu­reau­crat to make. That in­sults the in­tel­li­gence.

What should pro­voke the mind why is the county hes­i­tant to jus­tify such pol­icy ab­sence? Why is it afraid to in­vite an op­po­site po­si­tion? If you call that open govern­ment, you are wrong.

I am re­fer­ring to the strange pro­nounce­ment of our lo­cal govern­ment’s spokes­woman Ms. Donna Fuqua. When asked why no public hear­ing was done by the plan­ning com­mis­sion be­fore it ap­proved the fi­nal plat for Winsor Manor on Aug. 18, 2008, she replied that ex­ist­ing pol­icy re­quired no such hear­ing. Pe­riod.

The Fuqua dec­la­ra­tion is not Donna’s alone; it is be­ing mouthed around by higher bu­reau­crats like Peter Alu­otto and Ja­son Groth of the county Depart­ment of Growth and Man­age­ment. This is the depart­ment that has con­vinced the ap­pointed mem­bers of the plan­ning com­mis­sion to con­duct no public hear­ings on the eval­u­a­tion of sub­di­vi­sion plats.

Last year, Mr. Alu­otto ex­pressed Ms. Fuqua’s view­point on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions. In both cases, his mind was very clear: any public hear­ing would only serve as an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity. Why? It would not be able to change any­thing any­way, he said. Sounds smart. Or does it?

Stated dif­fer­ently, to do some­thing, there must be a law re­quir­ing, com­mand­ing, or man­dat­ing it. Sounds smart. Or does it?

The pur­pose of public hear­ing, and Mr. Alu­otto should know it, is to al­low peo­ple to get in­volved in their lo­cal govern­ment. The mo­nop­oly of knowl­edge does not be­long to man­age­ment tech­nocrats like Alu­otto. Ul­ti­mately, the resid­ual wis­dom in govern­ment is found among the peo­ple who elect their of­fi­cials and pay the taxes to pay for the bu­reau­crats.

The il­lu­sory as­sump­tion that peo­ple can­not change any­thing dur­ing a public hear­ing is a dan­ger­ous in­sult to the in­tel­li­gence of the public. If the public was heard prior to the un­for­tu­nate ap­proval of the Winsor Manor plat, three op­tions would have been pre­sented. One, the use of Cree­don Drive. Two, the pur­chase of the Ch­es­ley prop­erty by the state or county sim­i­lar to Chap­man’s For­est. Third, the the sale of the prop­erty to con­ser­vancy groups. And that is what public hear­ings are all about.

Is there a law pro­hibit­ing the plan­ning com­mis­sion to con­duct public hear­ings in the eval­u­a­tion of sub­di­vi­sion plats? One does not need to be a lawyer or a stu­dent of the Mary­land Code to know that such law does not ex­ist. Who then has sold the dumb idea to the plan­ning com­mis­sion?

Ours is a civ­i­liza­tion where we are happy to do a lot of things with­out need of be­ing re­quired, com­manded, or man­dated. Ours are val­ues we can be proud of.

First, the value of the ex­tra mile. Govern­ment em­ploy­ees like Alu­otto, Groth, and Fuqua are not re­quired, com­manded, or man­dated to go the ex­tra mile in their work. Is there a pol­icy pro­hibit­ing them to do so? There is none.

Sec­ond, ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions. Govern­ment em­ploy­ees like Alutto, Groth, and Fuqua are not re­quired, com­manded, or man­dated to ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions in their jobs. Is there a pol­icy pro­hibit­ing them to do so? There is none.

Third, think­ing out­side the box. Govern­ment em­ploy­ees like Alutto, Groth, and Fuqua are not re­quired, com­manded, or man­dated to think out­side the box. Is there a pol­icy pro­hibit­ing them to do so? There is none.

Con­duct­ing a public hear­ing is not even think­ing out­side the box. It is all ba­sic and com­mon sense. It is merely pro­mot­ing the public in­ter­est.

Some­body said that the most un­com­mon form of in­tel­li­gence is com­mon sense. Another added that there is only one kind of com­mon sense but a thou­sand va­ri­eties of stu­pid­ity.

Are we now see­ing these va­ri­eties in our lo­cal bu­reau­cracy? Just ask­ing.

Ul­y­see Davis, Bryans Road The writer is the pres­i­dent of the South Hampton Home Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Inc.

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