Submitted by Elliott Franklin –
There’s a concerning trend in our nation where many government officials—both elected and appointed—seem to view their constituents as serving them rather than fulfilling their role as public servants to the people. Furthermore, a number of safeguards in the Bill of Rights, which were designed to protect citizens from government overreach and abuse, have been undermined, eroded and chiseled away.
Unfortunately, this trend to chip away our rights—along with an attitude of suppressing the will of the people—may have manifested itself in Williamson County, as most recently evidenced in the Sept. 11 County Commissioners’ meeting.
During this meeting, County Legal Counsel Robert Cook introduced a resolution amending the rules, regulations and procedures for Williamson County Board of Commissioners concerning calling town hall meetings. The resolution appeared to be primarily in response to County Commissioner Christopher Richards’ town hall meeting last March, where many in attendance expressed concerns about election integrity in Williamson County.
Specifically, a number of attendees at that open session raised issues about voting equipment and articulated their support for paper ballots, which have consistently been opposed by the Williamson County Election Commission.
Mr. Cook claimed there were “multiple” complaints about “confusion” regarding the intent of Commissioner Richards’ meeting. Who complained about this town hall meeting and why? Mr. Cook didn’t say. Nor did he explain how the public notice was confusing. Nothing in the notice indicated it was an official Board of Commissioners meeting; in fact, the notice specifically stated that County Commissioners were INVITED to attend.
The notion that town hall meetings held by County Commissioners create “confusion” and “false pretenses”—and that such gatherings may be perceived as official Board of Commissioners meetings—is a smokescreen. The reality is that Mr. Cook’s resolution was designed to make it more difficult for County Commissioners to interact with their constituents by forcing the commissioners to pay all of the costs of holding town hall meetings.
It appears that some of the people who are supposed to serve us are trying to disenfranchise voters and take away our ability to give feedback publicly about how the county operates, especially when it comes to the touchy subject of election integrity.
Although the County Commission unanimously voted to table the resolution, it has since become de facto policy—at least for now.
So, here’s where we are: County Mayor Rogers Anderson can call all the meetings or open houses he desires, and taxpayers pick up the full tab. On the other hand, County Commissioners who want to engage with citizens, get citizen input and hear their concerns via a town hall process are required to pay all expenses for such public meetings. This is a glaring and unacceptable double standard that usurps the commissioners’ power and impedes their ability to adequately represent their constituents.
Mayor Anderson, along with the entire Board of Commissioners, should reject this resolution in the interests of the people they serve. In fairness, Williamson County needs to pay the expenses for public meetings held by County Commissioners, just as it does for meetings held by Mayor Anderson.