After reading Trent Knuckles’ column last week about not being able to hear much during Corbin City Commission meetings let alone understand what is being talked about, I got to thinking that this government body could take a few lessons from the Whitley County Fiscal Court on how to have a meeting.
To their credit, the fiscal court has done a good job over the last few years to make their meetings more accessible to the public.
Shortly after Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. took office nearly two-and-a-half years ago, he moved the regular monthly fiscal court meetings from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The move was made to make it easier for people that worked during the day to attend meetings.
Soon after that, the fiscal court installed a sound system into their meeting room complete with microphones for the officials to speak into and speakers so they could be heard easier.
Name plates were added in front of magistrates and the judge-executive so that audience would know who was speaking, and there is a microphone up front that those wishing to address the fiscal court could speak into.
More recently, the fiscal court has added two flat screen television monitors on either side of the courtroom where they typically display the meeting’s agenda so that people can keep up with what is being discussed. The monitors can also be used to show digital photos or videos if needed.
The overall effect of these changes is that it’s much easier for John Q. Public, in addition to other county officials, to understand what is happening during the meetings.
To their credit, fiscal court members spend a fair amount of time discussing some items during the actual meeting. If they don’t understand something, or want more information, then magistrates will often ask questions. Sometimes it’s questions like, do we have the money i After reading Trent Knuckles’ column last week about not being able to hear much during Corbin City Commission meetings let alone understand what is being talked about, I got to thinking that this government body could take a few lessons from the Whitley County Fiscal Court on how to have a meeting. n our budget to do this? Can we afford it?
Had their predecessors asked such questions and insisted on answers, then we might have avoided the county going nearly bankrupt a few years ago, but I could go on all day about that one.
On regular occasions, matters being discussed by the current fiscal court will be tabled until next month’s meeting so answers can be researched. Guess what? The following month, they usually discuss things that were tabled the previous month and have answers for the questions that were asked then.
The fiscal court also isn’t afraid for people in the audience to ask a question or two, such as the time they were getting a presentation on voting machines they were thinking about purchasing.
This isn’t to say that a lot of other government entities do a bad job with their meetings. Most are quite open and you can hear what is being discussed and voted upon. The fiscal court has taken extra steps to be even more open, and I think they deserve some recognition for that.
Also, if you haven’t checked out the county’s website in a while, then I would encourage you to do so. The website features a way of contacting county officials about problems, and it has numbers for the government offices. It includes the county budgets for the last few years, minutes from meetings, county job openings, and most recently a list of monthly expenditures was added.
If another government entity is looking to create a website, then this would be a pretty good one to model it after.
If Corbin is looking for a way to improve openness at its meetings, then I would suggest modeling the county’s approach.
As good a job as the fiscal court has done, I’d like to challenge it to do a little more to make its meetings even more accessible and open to the public.
A good goal is to place cameras in the meeting room so that the meetings could be taped and played on local access channels on the cable television systems.
A better goal is to tape the meetings, and have them available for viewing on the county’s website. This way people that can’t make it to the meetings can still see and hear what their government is doing.
I’m from the school of thought that says that the more open a government is the better, and we couldn’t make it a lot more open than that.
As I conclude this column, let me say that many of the fiscal court’s measures would be good for Williamsburg to implement in the meeting room at its new city hall, which opens soon.