—–Original Message—–
From: Tammy L. Spinks
To: awheeler <awheeler@pwcgov.org>; jlawson <jlawson@pwcgov.org>; yvega <yvega@pwcgov.org>; kboddye <kboddye@pwcgov.org>; gainesville <gainesville@pwcgov.org>; mfranklin <mfranklin@pwcgov.org>; vsangry <vsangry@pwcgov.org>; abailey <abailey@pwcgov.org>; bocs <bocs@pwcgov.org>
Sent: Fri, Mar 27, 2020 5:39 am
Subject: March 31 Board Agenda Item 4D Public Comment Time

[Note that bracketed passages such as this one and underlining of passages were added by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG]

Dear Supervisors,

Please know I applaud your efforts to limit the public’s exposure to COVID-19 and the possible continued spread by tightening up procedures and access to the Board [Board of County Supervisors, BOCS] meetings, including postponing unnecessary public hearings.  Thank you!  However, the resolution to remove Public Comment Time is troublesome to me.  The resolution is written in such a way that [ending] Public Comment Time will become permanent unless you take action to reinstate.  I fear that is the real purpose of the resolution.  

Please understand that Public Comment Time, formerly known as Citizen’s Time, is ingrained in our political culture.  It is a time-honored and treasured tradition.  I’ve heard several of you say it’s time to change tradition, and maybe it is — but not by silencing your constituents.  Many of you haven’t had the opportunity to experience [what you might consider] a positive Public Comment time.  Things have moved fast and furious since your first January meeting.  But it is not always this way.  Public Comment Time is used by many groups for varied reasons.  Student groups will appear to invite the Board to participate in activities such as suicide prevention seminars, teachers speak to advocate on behalf of educational causes, PTA groups appear pleading for funding or other issues, local social service activists speak on behalf of the poor and underserved, and some appear to announce activities or functions the public would enjoy such as plays or fun runs.  The list goes on and on as you can well imagine.  And of course, the time is used to speak about things you might not agree with.  But that is not a reason to remove it from your meetings.

Public Comment time is important to us.  To think that our opportunity to speak to our public servants in person and on the record may no longer be an option is unconscionable to me.  I respectfully ask that at least one of you make a motion to amend the resolution to restore Public Comment time immediately upon the expiration of this declared emergency and associated executive orders.  It’s simple and quick, resolves the immediate need to limit contact, and maintains the integrity of the public’s right to participate in their government.  A suggestion to amend follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Prince William Board of County Supervisors hereby waives its Rules of Procedures to remove Public Comment Time under Section F(4) at all Board meetings until such time as Executive Order No. 51 (2020) DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY DUE TO NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) and Executive Order No. 53 (2020) TEMPORARY RESTRICTIONS ON RESTAURANTS, RECREATIONAL, ENTERTAINMENT, GATHERINGS, NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL BUSINESSES, AND CLOSURE OF K-12 SCHOOLS DUE TO NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) expire or are rescinded by further executive order.

Please consider making this a temporary, not permanent restriction.

Tammy L. Spinks Brentsville District