Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm so frustrated.

I'm a Howard County resident. I have a job, my husband has a job, we both work ridiculous hours to be able to afford a house and continue to live in Howard County. We have a little girl, who took her own sweet time coming into our lives. For over 10 years, I contributed to the Howard County Schools tax base and one day I hope my daughter will benefit from the wonderful Ho. Co. School system. For the most part, I am proud to live in Howard County, and have spent countless hours, weeks, months and years trying to make my neighborhood a better place to live by being active in my HOA, attending hearings, doing research at DPZ, just being a an active part of the community. I want, like everyone else, to live in a nice community. I'm just more outspoken than most about what I want that community to look like.

This task force is supposed to be about public engagement. There is nothing about the meeting times that are at all engaging the the general public of Howard County. Most people work - at a job where output is required. Most general, everday, regular citizens of Howard County work during the day and then have a commute. So why isn't the whole PELU task force and all its lofty goals of public engagement more regular Howard County citizen friendly?

I don't get to bill my hours to a client, I don't get to add this taskforce to my CV, it won't add to my client list and it won't decrease my tax bill and the experience will not add any income to my household. By the time this taskforce is done, I will have spent several hundred dollars for childcare and for what? After attending 4 task force meetings, it is quite clear that the public really isn't welcome to talk about land use. Except for those dog and pony shows before a general plan every 10 years.

The meeting times are not citizen friendly and I feel it is very important for me to speak out publicly and state this.


William E. Erskine said...

Judy, I wish you had expressed your frustration earlier. I happen to completely agree with you. If you were at the inital meeting of the task force you will recall that I suggested that the task force meet on the same schedule that is imposed upon developers holding pre-submission community meetings. County law requires developers to schedule these meetings to begin between 6-8 pm Monday through Friday, or on Saturday between 9-5. To my surprize, my suggestion was voted down by the overwhelming majority of the task force members (democracy in action). To date the task force meetings have been scheduled for 4 pm - 6 pm on weekdays. This was done largely to accomodate the work schedules of the DPZ staff members who would otherwise have to work overtime if we were to schedule the meetings later in the evening. Remember these first several meetings have involved informational presentations from DPZ staff. The task force determined (by vote)that it would be helpful to hold these informational sessions in order to educate all members of the task force as to the current practices and procedures involved in land use matters. Jauary 29th will conclude the last of these informational sessions. You will recall that at the end of our January 24th meeting I, as Co-Chair of the task force, polled the members as to the best meeting times for future meetings. I even offered to meet on the weekend at a public library in order to accommodate the schedules of task force members who have had difficulty attended the task force meetings during the week days. To my complete surprize once again, the overwhelming consensus of the group was to hold the meeting on February 7 from 3 pm to 5 pm (again, democracy in action).

I share your frustration with these meeting times. It is very inconvenient for me to meet a these times. I also have to earn a living. I have child care issues (I have to put my 4th grader on the bus in the morning which doen't come till 9Am). I also don't get paid for working on the task force. Nor do I bill a client for this. Despite all this, I do believe that the work of the task force is important and necessary to preserve and improve the quality of life we all enjoy living in Howard County.

I hope you understand that I don't feel that as Co-Chair of the task force I can impose a meeting schedule upon the task force members just because it would be more convenient for my schedule. I do think, however, that we should rotate the times of the meetings so as to allow more members to participate. I hope you will hang in there with me and the task force. We really need your involvement if we are to have a task force that represents the views of the entire community.

P.S - thanks for using the blog, you are the first to post a comment!

Judy Fisher George said...

I have been at all the meetings, and maybe I just haven't been as vocal as I could have been.

I drive a lot for work, many days I'm on the road by 5 am, but I've still rearranged my schedule to drive in from NJ, PA, and Ocean City or wherever work takes me that day, to make these meetings. However, I have to leave early to be able to pick up my daughter from daycare which closes at 6.

Trust me, balancing work, family time, is a daily challenge for all residents of Howard County.

I've struggled, fought and just been speechless through over 10 years worth of countless hearings and land use issues and been quite vocal about frustration about land use around my neck of Howard County, and when Jen asked, I saw this task force as a potential to make a positive change, which is why I volunteered.

I just wish there was a little more thought about the everyday regular Joe Schmoe citizen when these meetings are planned. Its not supposed to be at the convenience of the county staff, don't they serve us? Being self employed, flextime doesn't have the same meaning to me as it may for others.

This is NOT what Jen had in mind when she introduced this legislation.