Friday, February 12, 2010

Oconee County Land Use Committee Chair Controls Meetings

I Wish I Knew

Abe Abouhamdan, chair of the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning, runs a tight meeting.

His handling of the gathering of the group on Tuesday night illustrated that point well.

A seemingly mild-mannered guy with a soft voice, Abouhamdan started the meeting promptly at 7 p.m.--with a warning to the public.

"We have business to discuss," he said. The public should hold its comments to the section on the agenda for that purpose and limit those comments "to the items listed on the agenda," he added.

Abouhamdan passed out that agenda, which placed the public comments opportunity near the end--just ahead of the announcement of the time and place of the next meeting and of adjournment.

In case the public–and at that time, I was the only member of the public present–didn’t hear the admonition about holding comments and sticking to topic, Abouhamdan had it printed at the bottom of the agenda itself.

Abouhamdan then started into that agenda, but he stopped abruptly after getting approval of the minutes of the last meeting.

He had forgotten to introduce Jim Luke, a member of the Board of Commissioners, two members of the county staff, Blake Giles, editor of The Oconee Enterprise, and me. He acknowledged each of us--by name.

One other citizen arrived a few minutes later, as did a third staff member. They missed the chance to be introduced.

Abouhamdan is president & CEO of ABE Consulting, Inc., and he does contract work for the county, including on the design of the often-discussed but not-yet-realized widening of Daniells Bridge road.

He is in his second term as chairman of the 14-member committee, having been elected to that position by the members, who are appointed by the BOC.

Abouhamdan next turned to the discussion of the first item on the agenda, the future of the county courthouse.

He methodically outlined options, expressed his opinions about them, and let the individual members ask questions or make comments.

That agenda item exhausted (though without any agreement on what to do about the courthouse), Abouhamdan called for other business from committee members.

Richard McSpadden seized the opportunity to say he wanted to know the status of the mitigation resolution the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee reviewed at its November 2009 meeting.

McSpadden added that he "saw something in the paper" about it.

The committee voted on Nov. 10 not to recommend the resolution to the BOC, and the BOC has not taken any action on the resolution.

The only thing that has been in any paper about this in 2010 was a letter I wrote (using my name) to the Athens Banner-Herald. The paper published the letter (with my name) on Feb. 3.

I also had introduced the resolution to the BOC, had lobbied the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee to put it on its agenda, and had corresponded with Abouhamdan numerous times about it.

I did miss the November meeting when it was discussed because of a prior international commitment, but the resolution was presented to the committee by an attorney working with me. She told the committee she had written the resolution at my request.

Abouhamdan told McSpadden that as far has he knew, the resolution had not been addressed by the commissioners, but he was not certain.

He turned to Wayne Provost, county strategic and long range planner, who also said he didn’t know the status of the resolution.

"I wish I knew," Abouhamdan said apologetically as he brought the matter to a close.

Commissioner Luke, who certainly knew the answer, was still sitting at the back of the room, exactly where he had been when Abouhamdan introduced him earlier.

And I was still sitting exactly where I had been when Abouhamdan introduced me.

The next item on the agenda was citizen comment, and I stood and distributed to the committee a copy of a posting from this blog providing information on land for sale around the courthouse.

By my interpretation–and apparently by Abouhamdan’s–that was appropriate, given that the courthouse was listed on the agenda.

The mitigation resolution was not, and no one asked me about it.

Abouhamdan adjourned the meeting at 8:07 p.m., missing his stated goal of ending the meeting in an hour.

But he missed only slightly.

"The 'I wish I knew' Clip"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Speaking about running a tight meeting, I went to my first Board of Education shindig in several months. It can only be described as "slick." Power Point, computer display following speech in real time [rehearsed], and various talking poits boldly underscored.
Persons wishing to comment should give five days notice to speak five [closely timed] minutes, and are asked to have copies of notes for the Board. No answers are to be expected to questions but from Superintendent "in a day or two."
At first I was aghast. BUT...those who spoke were prepared, researched, direct, persuasive, and effective; and quite corectly critical.
There was time for drop-in speakers, three minutes max and signed up on the sheet.
72% of the county budget and you get what they want you to know.