Commissioner questions meeting cancellation

First Posted: 10/13/2009

This weeks Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting has been canceled due to a lack of items to discuss or act on, but one of its members questions that decision.
Well, I wish we would have that meeting, said Jon Cawley, who represents the citys North Ward. Even if we dont have a lot of things that we need to inform people on, I think its always good to listen to the citizens.
Normally, two council meetings are held each month in Mount Airy, one on the first Tuesday of the month and another on the third Thursday, which falls this week.
However, it was announced Tuesday that this Thursdays regular meeting would be canceled. The board is not scheduled to convene again until Nov. 5, two days after a municipal election that includes a hotly contested mayors race and two commissioner candidates who are unopposed, including Cawley.
Mayor Jack Loftis said Tuesday that city officials had decided there simply wasnt enough business at hand to justify meeting this week.
They got together with the staff and listed everything that they could think of that needed to be on the agenda, and we just didnt have an agenda, the mayor explained.
So we polled the board members, and they didnt want to meet just for the purpose of meeting, he added.
So its just that we didnt have any action items that required discussion at this time.
Cawley said he was contacted last week concerning the possible cancellation by City Manager Don Brookshire. Don called and asked me if it was OK, since there was a light agenda.
And I said, well, if everybody else is OK with it, Cawley said he told Brookshire. But after thinking about the matter for a couple of hours, the North Ward councilman said he changed his mind. Then I called him back and said, I dont think we should (cancel the meeting).
Cawley cited multiple reasons Tuesday for his concern.
This is a really important time, and theres a whole lot of things happening, he said. To me, its just not good policy to cancel meetings.
Another factor surrounds items that citizens might want to bring to the board which are not part of its regular agenda, Cawley said. Time is set aside at the start of every commissioners meeting in which citizens can approach city officials on any topic. Surprises have arisen at times during that public-comment period.
But the mayor stressed Tuesday that the door is open at any time for citizens who have pressing business to present to the board to contact the city manager and ask to be placed on the agenda.
Loftis said that in reference to this weeks meeting, there wasnt any indication that this is the case. He added that numerous ways exist for the public to have urgent matters addressed by city government in a timely manner.
The mayor also said the meeting cancellation shouldnt be taken as an indication that the board is not doing anything, citing the behind-the-scenes work that officials perform on nights and weekends and at other times.
The fact we cancel a meeting doesnt mean that they are all on vacation and not doing anything, Loftis said.
Mount Airy officials have been known to cancel meetings, but usually due to scheduling conflicts with holidays such as Christmas. The mayor also recalled Tuesday that sessions have been canceled on occasion due to lack of agenda items and because of bad weather.
I think theres been one or two during my tenure that we canceled, he said. There have been a few cases, but not very many.
Cawley also had concerns at the last commissioners meeting on Oct. 1 that a city-county liaison committee hasnt been meeting regularly. That group, composed of both Mount Airy and Surry County representatives, is scheduled to meet every month to discuss joint projects. However, it has gathered only twice since February.
Given recent utility, economic-development and other projects that have been occurring between the city and county and additional challenges facing local governments nowadays, I think we should be meeting, Cawley said on Oct. 1.
There is always something for the city and county to discuss.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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