Spring, 2014 | ELECTION WATCH
Letters - Spring election - 2014
The story behind the ordinance draft
I have sat on the land information committee and land and water resource committee) for nearly four years. The last thing I want to do is criticize our county departments or its employees. The people in these departments do a great job and are dedicated.
About three years ago when the citizen advisory committee was first organized, I asked if LIC needed to attend the CAC meetings in order to get the ideas being generated by this group. The CAC was designed to have representation from all the towns in Polk County and basically would brainstorm on what changes they thought were needed to the current county ordinances. I was told the LIC did not need to attend the meetings, the information and ideas from these meetings would be provided to the LIC.
Somewhere in this time frame the technical advisory group was formed. The TAG consisted of employees from the land information department and land and water resources. TAG was to review the recommendations from CAC and advise LIC on any possible conflict with current state statutes or DNR rules. Keep in mind the CAC nor TAG has the authority to set policy. Writing ordinances is setting policy, that is reserved for elected officials.
The way this should have worked was, the LIC would receive the informational notes from the CAC, and TAG would provide their opinions on this information to the LIC. The governing body, LIC, would decide which recommendations would not violate state statutes and DNR rules.
After these decisions were made, the draft would go to public hearings. The LIC is made up of elected officials and our job is to do the bidding of the people that elected us to office as long as it does not violate state and federal laws. It is also our duty to produce and present the best ordinance draft to the public as possible for discussion and input. The public hearings are an important part of this process. That gives the taxpayers of Polk County an opportunity to voice their opinions before LIC makes its final recommendations to the full county board. The county board will debate the draft from the LIC, and at that point it could be amended before sending it to DNR for final approval on shoreland issues. The ordinance rewrite has many checks and balances before the final product can be considered law.
Now, here is what went wrong in the process, in my opinion. There were no direct notes or minutes from the CAC. There were no recommendations or minutes from TAG to the LIC. The CAC meetings were on the county meeting calendar which makes them open to the public. LIC meetings were on the county calendar and were open to the public. TAG meetings were not on the county calendar and were not open to the public.
First of all, each committee should have had a charge statement. A charge statement tells each committee what their purpose is in the process and when their job is done. Each and every one of these meetings should have been open to the public. Ordinance rewrites are not a closed door process. I don’t think anyone purposely tried to shortcut the process, but it happened.
After talking to several members of the CAC, I realized there were issues raised at CAC meetings that LIC had not heard or been made aware of. These issues should not have been ruled out by any committee except LIC. The draft presented to LIC was being referred to as the CAC draft. This is incorrect. I have spoken to several CAC members and they told me they were disappointed with the draft. A couple of members were concerned that people would think this was the product they put out after three years of work. I firmly believe the taxpayers in Polk County should have a right to weigh in on issues involving their properties. Ordinances affect property owner’s rights and must not be taken lightly. We have an obligation to produce the best ordinance rewrite possible.
Care of the lakes, rivers and other sensitive areas has been addressed in these ordinances. DNR must approve any county shoreland ordinances before they can be enacted. People running around screaming the sky is falling are overreacting. The amendments submitted by me were not done under the premise that I am right, but done under the premise that open discussion will help us do the right thing.
Polk County supervisor and candidate, District 1