A recent transplant to Floyd County dropped by the studio last week to introduce himself and ask about life in our little corner of the world. He wanted to know when the Floyd County Board of Supervisors met so he could attend a meeting.
"Second Tuesday of the month," I said. "The meeting starts at 8:30 and generally runs all day."
He said he couldn’t go to meetings on a Tuesday. He works for a living.
"Why," he asked, "doesn’t the board meet at times when citizens can attend?"
Good question. I have asked the same questions to various members of the county board in the past. What I got in response was a lot of hemming and hawing and not a real answer.
For the most part, the primary governing body of Floyd County conducts its business on a business day when many citizens of the county are at work, often out of the county. The amounts to closing the door of government to many citizens.
Other county governments find a way to be more accessible to their citizens.Arlington County Supervisors meet on Saturdays, staring at 8:30 a.m. Roanoke County’s board meets at 3 p.m. for a general session and at 7 p.m. so the public can attend and comment. Montgomery County meets twice a month on Monday evenings starting at 7:15 p.m. Carroll County meets on the second Monday of each month with the meetings starting at 4 p.m. Even Floyd’s Town Council, hardly a shining example of open government, meets on Thursday evenings when citizens can attend.
No so for Floyd Supervisors. Meetings are on Tuesdays during the day, starting at 8:30 a.m. The supervisors’ "public comment" period is set at 9 a.m. — a time when most people are at work.
By late afternoon, at a time when some citizens might be able to get to a meeting (even if they have to leave work early), the supervisors are usually locked away in one of their frequent closed-door "executive sessions." Sometimes, the board will hold a public hearing on a matter during the evening hours but many of those hearings are also held during the day, limiting citizen participation in government.
In the 2005 local elections, angry voters sent two incumbent supervisors packing, expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo in Floyd County.
Two more supervisors stand for re-election this year. When they come to your door seeking votes, why not ask them why they can’t meet at a time when you and other citizens can view and participate in how they spend your tax money?