Now you see it, now it’s different

By: 

Residents attending the Barnwell County Council meeting recently were treated to a magic show.

Now you see it, now it’s different.

The Barnwell County Council held third reading of an ordinance on March 14 which gave them the authority to move all property and assets away from the Economic Development Corporation.

The same ordinance also took away all power except advisory from those serving on the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission.

The sleight of hand came when the wording of the ordinance was changed for the final reading without the public knowing what that wording was nor what its impact could be.

There was no motion to amend the ordinance. There was, however, a motion to hold third reading on an “amended” ordinance.

We will give credit to Councilmen Freddie Houston and David Kenner who asked their colleagues to push the pause button long enough for the public to know what was about to be passed.

That caution was ignored.

While the council listened to those who wanted to speak during the public comment period of the meeting - and pretty much all commented on their stance for or against the ordinance - no formal public hearing was scheduled or published ahead of the final reading.

But even those crowding the council chambers were unaware of the final wording of the ordinance.

And that is just wrong.

All boards, councils and commissions have an obligation to let the public know exactly and completely what ordinances, resolutions and other actions they are passing. Whether a resident supported the ordinance or not, the Barnwell County Council had an obligation to its constituents to divulge the final wording of this ordinance long before the final vote.

The phrase “the public has a right to know” is at the bedrock of our governmental system.

This time, the public didn’t know and the majority on Barnwell County Council didn’t care.