Response to Chronicle Article
Recently there was an article “Smith blasts Oliver in email to Commissioners”.
The article while on topic was not able to build the historical aspect of why I sent an email to my peers that took the Administrator to task.
First, the Administrator and our county lawyer are the commissions only actual direct employees, all other work for the government under the Administrator and not directly for the Commission and this is done to ensure that no one Commissioner has the ability to improperly direct staff.
So now let me explain in the proper aspect why I took the unusual steps I did to inform my peers of inappropriate action in the process to bring an issue to the agenda for discussion.
The issue that caused the conflict is that of discussing and possibly voting on the issue of requiring recumbent bikes to post flags or a banner of some type on their bike. Most of these bikes already come with these because of the very low profile that they have and the increased hazard they have in interacting with vehicular traffic.
I have spent some time working on this, by talking to people who bike and those who have seen near accidents at intersections that are probably some of the worse for the bike and vehicle interactions.
Around January 24th I submitted the agenda item, and it then got released to the staff the next week, by February 2nd I had a February 8th meeting set up at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) request.
The agenda was not yet public and this basically meant that someone from staff had reached out to them, so I was looking forward to this meeting and discussing this issue with experts in implementing policy and supporting projects.
But then I got a shock, on Tuesday, February 6th, at 6:12 pm I and my fellow commissioners got an email from the County Administrator that basically stated he had staff look into this with agency and consultants and that they haven’t seen legislation about this in the past and that this was a state issue.
Let me be clear that when a statement is made like this from one of the people in a position of high influence, it is usually taken as solid and indisputable fact.
But other than the fact the email said it was a state issue or that there was no legislation out there on this it provided “NO” backup or supporting information.
Why is this important?
The state statute 316.2065 covers a great amount of specific information about bicycles, yet nothing about flags or recumbent bicycles at all. Even more important is the fact this statute does “NOT” preempt this issue to the state.
You see as a former State policymaker the fact that something is not preemptively taken care of in statute does mean that it is open for local control of an issue.
As an example, we have an anti-fracking ordinance and what technically gives us the ability to do that is that it’s not preempted by the state.
So for an email from the Administrator to conclusively suggest that we cannot do this was inappropriate.
The biggest actual problem was that from the time that the item was released to staff and then made public on the agenda was about a week and during this week, the Administrator went to staff to inquire about the issue, was able to gather the information and write an email and yet in that entire week, didn’t bother to inquire as to my goals to increase public safety.
No questions as to where this was an issue or how I thought it could be addressed, yes I will admit that I did not reach out to the Administrator. But the issue was in my mind, something to broach at the board, see if there was enough interest to address and then if we needed to give directions to the Administrator and staff.
So there was no need for me to bring this to the Administrator as it was not a rush issue, but if the Administrator was working on my issue with staff he should have come to me or if it was any other Commissioner he should also reach out prior to drawing a conclusion.
I sent out the single stream email that is within the legal aspect of the Sunshine law to ensure my peers see that there were inappropriate actions taken and not to address the recumbent bike subject.
I could not go into as much detail as to do so would have indeed put me in violation of the Sunshine law.
In the end, my goal was to ensure that the process you pay us to conduct to ensure your Government works should be one of communication and if staff has a concern then it should be first brought to the commissioner that originated the item and not to all of us at once.
I hope this clarifies the issue and fills in the gaps of the email article, oh and yes I asked for an apology as a way to ensure that the sincerity of the issue is driven home.
In the end, we work for you to address issues, do research on the facts, drive discussion to ensure that what we do or don’t do is in line with our community needs and value and the thing that is needed the most to ensure that this works is “communication”. I hope that if any of us commissioners are working on something and staff has a concern that they would come to us first and foremost, before giving an unsupported conclusion to the Commission as a whole.
Just clarifying the issue and setting the record straight.