Editor: I have attended many public hearings since moving here and to a one, there is one common theme. Who you are matters a lot more than the substance of your issue.
I attended the November 1 Board of Adjustments meeting in part because I had an interest in one of the matters before it. I felt that the Board was the final opportunity for someone to seek resolution of a grievance before filing a lawsuit. The meeting got off to a rocky start. The chairman or the board was out of town but was participating by speaker phone. At some point in the first presentation, speakerphone asks if the prayer and pledge had been recited. Merry Duggin pointed out that given the long meeting she had proposed skipping the prayer and pledge. Speakerphone demanded that they be conducted at the first break. You seldom get a chance to make a first impression and let’s leave it at that.
I was there primarily to listen to the argument Mrs. Kit Kosakowski, was going to make regarding her issue about the redesignation of the Stillwater from a condo/hotel to a condo. A representative of the planning department described the issue. Then a member of the county attorney’s office spoke. He seemed to be confirming a key point in how our public officials view statutes and laws. They are FYI only. Their own opinions are what really counts.
Mrs. Kosakowski proceeded to deliver what I thought was an impressive summary of the issues where the county was out of compliance with various state and county statutes. I felt then and now that the Board should pay careful attention to her argument to prevent committing the taxpayers to a costly lawsuit. As I examined the many blank expressions on the dais, I noted that the two women, Merry Duggin and Anissa Wardell seemed to be intently interested in the issue.
Ms. Kosakowski was nearly done when speakerphone interrupted to ask the county attorney what the options were. To his credit, he did not waste a lot of time telling them that they needed to examine the arguments presented and make a decision that was fair and sufficient to resolve the issue. He said they could vote with the petitioner or the county all but implying that the issue was so far over the heads of those on the dais that to suggest they examine the details of Mrs. Kosakowski’s issue would be to assume a level of thrust that was not in evidence.
When the vote was taken, two members (Wardell and Duggin) supported the petitioner but the issue was decided 4-2 against. What happens next? A lawsuit has been filed in 4th District Court. Don’t lose sight of who will pay should the county lose. If you aren’t sure, look into a mirror. If the county loses in court, then I call on those who are selecting members for our boards and commission to being to consider likely competence.