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Public input important

 

The county commissioners work in a very transparent manner with public meetings required for the bulk of the business of the county be conducted. This means public meetings for ideas to be considered, funds expended, contracts entered into and all administrative and budget decisions made. Depending upon how the item is put on the agenda, once discussed we can only make a final decision if the agenda states a “possible decision”. If the topic is of significant public interest we feel it is only correct to provide time for additional public comment and schedule a follow up meeting to make our decision to either go forward or not in a public atmosphere. As we state repeatedly, it is our obligation to always address the opportunity to consider changes in department management and procedure when such an occasion as an opening in a department head position, change in need or funding, etc. comes before us. To have the public and press jump to conclusions about every topic of discussion before the board actually meets to consider the topic does a disservice to the commission and the community.

We follow the law which does not allow for back door dealings and decision making. It is in the best public interest to have our debates and considerations be in an open and transparent manner. This is how the process works. We are tasked with the oversight of the entire county budget and the performance of departments that are not under an elected official. From our perspective to not always keep the diminishing funds for our budget in mind and balance that with considering the best ways to provide top notch service to the county citizens would be a dereliction of duty.

I appreciate it when citizens take the time to write or attend our meetings and share their views. Your input is valued and helps give us insight to the public’s perspective. Often it is small groups with special interests who make the loudest noise. This is not a one sided situation, it is bi-partisan. We also must consider that while some of the public have strong passions about certain subjects from many differing perspectives, ultimately it is the law that must be upheld. It is often those situations where the law must prevail as the basis for our final decision making where some of the public is most incensed. Unfortunately, the issues we deal with require budget considerations and/or legal ramifications that can make it appear as if we are not listening to public opinion. Additionally, individual feelings are important but rarely a legitimate basis to ignore not just the law but the facts presented for decision making on behalf of some 40,000 citizens. Some issues are so contentious that civility goes out the window and feelings and anger are expressed more than factual input to the issue. We are blessed to live in a Constitutional Republic where mob rule does not take the day and where the individuals’ rights take priority over the mob. Even with the discomfort of repeatedly having public comment reduce to personal attacks, I feel blessed to be part of the entire process that is the heart beat of the United State of America.

Suzy Foss

Ravalli County Commissioner

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