Public hearing intentionally omitted?


This was buried at the end of a story by Susan Hylton on page A25 of Sunday's Whirled ("County considers grant bid for AA").

Commissioners on Monday also will consider adopting a resolution that requires a public hearing before any projects are deleted or added to the jobs, education and economic development portion of the vision package. Dick said the proposed resolution is an effort to clarify any questions citizens may have about the process.

Last week, Commissioner Dick, in answering the charge that voting yes would be like signing over a billion dollar blank check, pointed to Section 8 of each of the four ballot resolutions adopted by the County Commissioners on July 7. Section 8 specifies the projects and estimates of the cost of each. But Section 8, in each case but one, ends with this sentence:

In addition, such public trust shall approve any deletion or addition of projects from those listed above and any major change in scope of any such project following a public hearing by such trust.

The "public trust" has seven trustees, and they govern the expenditure of these funds. The trustees are the three County Commissioners, the Mayor of Tulsa, and three suburban Tulsa County mayors, appointed by the Chairman of the County Commission and confirmed by a majority of the County Commission. This trust can decide to cancel promised projects, add different projects, or completely change projects, as long as they money is spent for the broad category labeled on the ballot title as the "purpose" -- either "economic development" or "community infrastructure". That breadth of discretion is why many are calling this a billion dollar blank check.

Now, the trust does have to hold a public hearing before voting to make such changes. This means they have to give the public a chance to speak at the meeting before they take a vote. (You can have a public meeting -- public can attend -- without having a public hearing -- public can address the board.) A public hearing is a good thing; the County Commission is not required to hold public hearings and generally doesn't. Citizens should be seen and not heard, in their view.

For some reason, the phrase about a public hearing was left off of the ballot resolution which includes the Downtown Sports Arena. (The Whirled has chosen the euphemism "jobs, education and economic development portion" to refer to the ballot item dominated by the Downtown Sports Arena. This is because voters really don't like the idea of raising taxes to fund a Downtown Sports Arena.) Here's the end of section 8 on Proposition 3.

In addition, such public trust shall approve any deletion or addition of projects from those listed above and any major change in scope of any such project.

"Following a public hearing by such trust" is missing! Was this a mere "cut and paste" error, or was this deliberate? Not that a public hearing is a true check against abuse of power, but at least with a hearing they'd have to listen to citizens complain before they do what they want anyway.

I wonder if any of the Commissioners actually read these resolutions before all three voted to adopt them. When I called the County Commission late afternoon on Thursday, July 3, to see if I could get a copy, I was told that the lawyer was still working on them. So with the resolutions on the agenda for first thing on the next business day (Monday, July 7), not even the Commissioners, much less the general public, could look them over and catch errors.

So today they are supposed to fix this omission. What other gotchas are lurking in the fine print?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 28, 2003 2:38 AM.

Envisioning Elgin as the new Main Street was the previous entry in this blog.

Whirled needs correction about Solow is the next entry in this blog.

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