You may have noticed the Sullivan County Legislature doing something past legislatures too often avoided or ignored. We’re having meaningful discussions—in public—about important …
You may have noticed the Sullivan County Legislature doing something past legislatures too often avoided or ignored. We’re having meaningful discussions—in public—about important resolutions.
I’ve been told that, as chairman, it’s my duty to talk these resolutions over with legislators before they’re put on the agenda, because that’s the way it’s long been done. Guess I’m “new” at this, but I disagree.
Actually, I’m interested in full and frank discussions in public when a resolution is presented because that’s the way the legislature should have been doing it all along. Note that when a motion is made and seconded on a resolution, the floor is opened up for any legislator to discuss that resolution. If it’s a big or controversial item and you don’t hear that discussion being held, then it’s very likely the conversation happened behind closed doors—and we shouldn’t be conducting business that way.
Sure, anyone who wants to introduce a resolution has to talk about it with a handful of people before it makes it onto the agenda. None of us operates in a vacuum, and the resolution needs to make sense. But just because I or another legislator don’t discuss it with our colleagues beforehand, doesn’t mean something corrupt and nefarious is afoot—in fact, just the opposite.
We are only allowed to caucus with our own members to craft a resolution.
You want to know why we vote the way we do on items? Public discussions in public sessions are a great opportunity, one you shouldn’t be denied because an elected official wants to hide their reasoning. Plus, you may hear us say something you want to agree or disagree with, and you can do so at public comment afterwards. Can’t do that if you can’t hear what we have to say.
As has been demonstrated many times, presenting a resolution is no guarantee it will pass. It can be amended, tabled, even temporarily deep-sixed by invoking Rule 36.
If a legislator doesn’t like what they see in the resolution, they can and should say so. Whether or not the rest of us agree with them isn’t the point. People deserve to know where each of us stands on issues.
Resolutions aren’t the end of the discussion—they’re the beginning. Let’s start talking!
Robert Doherty is the chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature and the legislator from District 1.