Public action or inaction on issues?

At a public hearing.

Lots of anger flowed into my email inbox and out of a discussion group on Facebook this past weekend over what some claimed was the “banning” of abortions in Floyd County by the Board of Supervisors.

Emails spurred by the debate on social media this past weekend demanded to know why I “hid the fact” that the Floyd County Board of Supervisors “banned” abortion earlier this year.

On social media, a woman expressed anger over what she said was the county board of supervisors banning abortion in Floyd County. She was adamant that the supervisors had banned abortion in Floyd County while raising their salaries.

The supervisors banned nothing.  The board did not, and could not, ban abortion or any other medical procedure in Floyd County because that is not within the jurisdictional purview of what a county board of supervisors can or cannot do.

They can, and did by a split vote, approve a resolution expressing their opposition to abortion.  That nonbinding resolution has no legislative power.  Is not an ordinance, nor can it become one.  Abortions in Virginia are governed by state and federal laws, not the wishes or a board of trustees or a town council or any other local governing authority.

Was the resolution a waste of time?  That depends on which side of the issue one might be on. The resolution was modified more than once and took nearly two months before a vote to approve.  Floyd County’s board of supervisors has approved other resolutions that are simply expressions of opinion or support or opposition to things where they have no actual control or authority.

As the current Floyd Press newspaperman assigned to cover the board of supervisors and county business, I wrote three stories that focused on the resolution — two of them appearing on Page One — yet some in the discussion on social media said they never saw any publicity about the resolution.

The resolution grew out of a move in the Virginia General Assembly to reduce limits on late-term abortions and it created a lot of media coverage on television stations, daily and weekly newspapers in Virginia and The Washington Post.

Other issues before the board his year also brought out anger.

The Supervisors voted in their first increase on compensation in 35 years by raising their base annual pay to $5,500 a year, which still leaves their level on pay at the bottom of a long list of Virginia county supervisors who receive more…in many cases a lot more.

Several residents thought the raise was unnecessary.  Other thought the supervisors should work for free.

The debate on Facebook also got into the long-delayed upgrades to pedestrian crossings at the intersection of U.S. 221 and Virginia Rte.8 at Floyd’s only stoplight.  The plans have been covered in The Floyd Press, The Roanoke Times and Roanoke-based television stations, yet some express little or no knowledge of the issue.

Virginia Department of Transportation says the contract should finally be let early next month with construction of the project beginning this fall and continuing into next year.  Supervisors questioned the use of funds from the secondary road improvement program to pay for the $1 million plus tab on a project involving the county’s two primary highways but VDOT did so anyway and we reported that in the paper.

Is delayed public response a failure of us in the media or a lack of interest in the community of following news reports of what is happening in and around Floyd?

A public hearing on the new proposed increase in compensation for county supervisors brought one resident to speak on the issue and she said she appeared solely to make sure at least once speaker appeared, adding that “I have nothing to say” about the issue.

In another public hearing — on the county budget that takes effect on the start of the new fiscal year on July 1 — a sole speaker also appeared and did not oppose the budget.

Both public hearings were publicized in The Floyd Press.  The county also took out ads advising the public of the hearings date, time and purpose.

Both hearings were held in the evenings, after normal working hours for most county residents.

In the past 20 years, the largest turnout for a public hearing came when an overflow crowd packed the auditorium of Floyd County High School to debate — in many cases, angrily — a proposed leash law for dogs.

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