In an effort to cut down the length of some meetings, county supervisors have voted to limit input from the public at some meetings.
Speakers will now be limited to no more than three minutes, and potentially as little as two minutes, at board meetings and public hearings. The total amount of speaking time for the public at business meetings will be limited to thirty minutes. Those speakers will be allowed to speak based on who was first to sign up.
There is still no limit on the amount of time for public input at public hearings, which are held separately from board business meetings.
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) decides at the beginning of each meeting how long speakers will have to speak within the limits set forth in the rules of order. Previously, the board’s rules of order allowed her to give speakers up to five minutes each, and imposed no limit on the total amount of time allotted for public input. Vice chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said it’s an effort to shorten board business meetings, where the board makes consequential votes. Those begin at 5 p.m. and often run to midnight.
“It’s usually around 9 o’clock we actually get to the real action items requiring a vote, and if we have a lot of speakers, it might be 10, it might be 11,” Buona said. “So two things happen. We’re all cranky and combative. We’re not on our game.”
He said it’s also less transparent—to see votes, Loudouners may have to stay in the boardroom until late into the night. He also pointed out there are other ways for the public to reach the board, such as email.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said there remain plenty of opportunities to reach the board.
“I still think we are in the kind of the market leader in public input even with this rules change, and this will allow us to have a better meeting, conduct business at an hour that is more appropriate to conduct business,” Letourneau said.
Randall and supervisors Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) and Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) opposed the change. Randall said she “can’t in good conscience vote to decrease the amount of time that the public speaks to us.”
“If we want to decrease meetings, maybe we should talk less,” Randall said.
The rule change passed 4-3, with supervisors Buona, Letourneau, Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) in support. Supervisors Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) were absent for the vote.
Find contact information for each supervisor at https://www.loudoun.gov/bos.