Seems to Me . . . Happy hour

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By Stan Welch

I have just been looking at the agenda for the March 5 County Council meeting, and I’m sorry. I just can’t keep quiet any more. One of the major political issues in the country today is the size of government. Well, there are several aspects to that issue.

One is not just the sheer size, but the level of activity. Now, I realize I’m bringing this down to the county level; but as the adage says, all politics is local. The agenda I have just been looking at is almost three full pages long. I’ve been covering politics and government as a reporter for thirty years, and a three page agenda is a bright red flag to me.

It tells me two things. First, and obviously, it tells me we are in for a long night. And secondly, it tells me that there is too much government going on.

Each category of items is allotted a certain amount of time, such as proclamations, and ordinances, and committee reports, and stuff like that. So after seeing a three page agenda, I got curious. I took out my handy dandy little solar powered calculator and I added up all the time allotments included in the agenda.

The first page, which didn’t include time allotted for the invocation, the Pledge to the flag, or the acceptance of minutes, came to two hours and fifteen minutes. Included on that page is a little item called “News you can use”. It is included on the agenda to give District two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd a guaranteed time to get on camera.

I have sat through several of these since the Council chairman and the administrator decided to allot fifteen minutes to Ms. Floyd at each meeting. I have yet to hear a single speck of news I could use. Perhaps Ms. Floyd could offer some news about snoring treatments, since her little segment of the meeting induces a great deal of snoring among the audience.

To be fair, there were several ordinances presented for votes as well. Some were third and final readings and some were second readings, with a couple new ordinances being presented for the first time.

Also on the first page of the agenda, for the consideration of the Council, are two resolutions. One is a resolution to declare February to be Black History Month in Anderson County. The other is to declare February as Hunger Awareness Month in Anderson County.

The first resolution seems oddly appropriate, since Black History Month is already history. But the second one seems almost cavalier, as if the Council is saying, “Hey, we heard you guys were hungry last month.” Now, I’m no agenda meister, by any means. But just as a suggestion, if you don’t get to something during the month you’re supposed to, just drop it. Please?

The second page timed out to a mere one hour and forty minutes. Can you feel the momentum building? Whoo! We’re governing now. That page, by the way, contained four ordinances presented for the first of three required readings and approvals, as well as four more resolutions, and two committee reports. One of the committee reports was by the ad hoc housing initiative committee, chaired by Francis Crowder. That report was allotted just five minutes, which goes beyond optimism to the level of a hallucination, because Mr. Crowder has never reported on anything in five minutes. Ever.

The third page of the agenda, which also includes several untimed items, such as citizens’ comments and Council members’ remarks, took the meeting to a total of more than five hours. Now, I’m a fair guy, so let me say that a number of these items will not use up all the time allotted. But a lot will use more.

On top of that, there are two possible executive sessions on the agenda, either or both of which could last from five minutes to two hours. For perspective, I wrote this column in forty five minutes, which means I could have written it six times during the allotted length of the meeting.

Seems to me like Mr. Crowder and Mr. Burns should get together and try – very hard – to make these agendas shorter than the average menu at a Mexican restaurant; or at least make the first hour happy hour.