Letter to the Editor: ‘Commissioners, let’s work on our future’
I spoke to the Franklin County Commission at their meeting this past week to follow up on letters I sent each of them the previous week.
One lesson learned from the recent mega-landfill expansion proposal was the vast majority of Franklin County residents felt they were not informed about the proposal in a timely manner. The commission can easily provide more transparency for, and notice and opportunity to be heard by, its county residents. Here are four proposals the Commissioners should approve immediately:
Proposal 1: The commission should publish the agendas for its work sessions and regular/business meetings no later than the close of business the Friday before. These agendas should be published on the county webpage and Facebook page. Any last-minute changes to the agenda at the time of the work session meeting should be reflected in the regular/business meeting agenda when it is published. There should be no last-minute changes to the agenda for the regular/business meetings.
The commission emails the agendas to a select few and has posted the past two meeting agendas to Facebook but not the county’s webpage.
Looking at the Colbert County webpage, it’s easy to find their commission’s meeting agendas. Franklin County needs to follow suit.
Proposal 2: As the commission does not approve the minutes of its business meeting until the next business meeting, 30 days later, the commission should publish draft meeting minutes no later than the close of business on the second day after the meeting and then publish the final approved meeting minutes of the previous no later than the close of business on the second day after the regular/business meeting at which those minutes were approved.
These meeting minutes should be published on the county webpage and on its Facebook page.
These actions will keep Franklin County residents informed on commission actions.
Posting agendas and minutes goes hand in hand. Both are necessary. The 30-day delay in minutes being available to county citizens is a serious shortcoming for transparency and notice and opportunity to be heard.
Now, the commission has been posting its minutes, and the link to them can be found on the front page of the website. To the commission’s credit, all the supporting documents for the minutes are located on the website, too.
Good start. But it gets complicated, and after several clicks and some typing, a citizen can’t print off or download a copy of the minutes. Looking at Colbert County’s webpage again, their minutes are three clicks away. Obtaining minutes for Franklin County takes a lot more work.
A link on Facebook to those minutes would be convenient, too.
Proposal 3: The commission should permanently change the times for both its work sessions and business meetings to 6 p.m. on the Mondays those meetings are held, enabling citizens to attend after work.
Of all the proposals, this one is the “no brainer.” If most of our citizens don’t even have a fighting chance to physically attend the meetings – because they are in work or school during the 8:30 a.m. business meetings and can’t possibly get to 5 p.m. work sessions from their jobs or from finishing up with their kids’ activities – then why hold public meetings at all?
Ironically, Commissioner Hester was 35 minutes late to the commission meeting I spoke at – as he was held up at work. Had the meeting been scheduled for 6 p.m., he would have been early.
Meeting times like the current ones give the perception the commission doesn’t want citizens to attend their meetings.
There is no reasonable excuse for these meeting times when you measure it against the public’s ability to attend.
Proposal 4: The commission should immediately start the process to implement a five-year strategic plan for Franklin County.
A five-year strategic plan is a strategic roadmap to help the commission better achieve long-term goals. These plans often include details that help illustrate the specific goals of the county and how they plan to achieve those goals.
Looking all over the Franklin County website, I couldn’t find our county’s five-year strategic plan. I couldn’t find a vision statement for our county either.
So, what is the vision for our county, and what work is the commission doing on that vision? Where do each of our commissioners see our county in three years? Five years? Ten years? If we don’t have a plan for the future, we don’t have a future.
The commission should use various means to solicit residents’ input, and the five-year plan should be a living document, reviewed annually and updated as needed. The commission should report annually on the status and progress made on the five-year strategic plan goals.
Franklin County residents are entitled to know where their county is headed and the progress that is being made.
This five-year plan should be published on the county website, as well.
Please note, I do want to compliment the commission – with a special shoutout to Judge Moore and Leah Mansell, who undoubtedly do all the heavy lifting – on the everyday and yearly work of keeping the proverbial lights on and the trains running on time in Franklin County. Thank you!
But let’s work on our future too.
All four of my proposals are simple, obvious actions the Franklin County Commission can take immediately. These are actions many other county commissions and local governments have already taken. All of these actions will provide better transparency as well as a road map for progress.
I strongly encourage the commission to adopt these changes at the next business meeting. I look forward to the commission taking up each of these proposals at the next business meeting and voting on each of the proposals. Let the citizens and the voters know where you stand on these.
I predict these measures will be adopted by the commission for the common-sense reasons I laid out. I’d be surprised if all commissioners didn’t adopt them as campaign platforms in the 2024 election.
I see them being adopted sooner rather than later – but certainly no later than 2025.
It’s time to act beyond “the way it’s always been done.” Franklin County is a beautiful, good county, and we’ll get better together.