2019 Board Meeting Schedule, Committee of Whole Changes and Increased Public Engagement Explored
COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA - January 12, 2019 (LSN)
This week at the first Board of Commissioners meeting of 2019, the Board adopted a revised schedule for Board and Committee of the Whole Meetings.
Regular Board of Commissioner Meetings will remain on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, starting at 8:30 am. Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings will continue in 2019 as separate from the regular Board Meetings, but held the 3rd Tuesday of the month after the Public Health & Human Services Board which also begin at 8:30 am. The decision to hold the meetings after the PHHS Board Meetings came after review of public attendance at the 2018 evening COW Meetings. COW meetings were held in the evening last year in an attempt to make them more accessible to the public; however, very limited attendance was repeatedly recorded. To make the meetings easy to access and view from anywhere COW Meetings will also now be live- streamed and video archived for viewing any time after the meetings.
“Live-streaming the Committee of the Whole Meetings is a request the County has often heard from the public and following decision by the Board on this matter, we are pleased to make them accessible in this way in 2019,” said Jeff Cadwell, County Administrator.
What is Committee of the Whole and What is the Purpose?
Committee of the Whole is a part of the Standing Committee structure to review policy development and consider options and alternatives. Three Standing Committees exist under this structure:
- General Government & Budget, and
- Public Safety & Transportation
These Committees meet monthly to review operations, policies and external factors to undergo due diligence and legwork prior to bringing recommendations to COW. The COW Meeting is an opportunity for the entire Board to review the work of the Committees and discuss options before recommendations are brought to the Board Meetings for consideration and decision making. There are no actions taken or decisions made at COW, this is strictly a working meeting for the Board. Members of the public are welcome to attend.
Each of the Standing Committees is assigned two County Commissioners and the appropriate Department Heads and staff for the subject matter.
Exploration of More Public Engagement and Input Opportunities
Cook County is continually striving to deliver quality public services, effectively communicate with and engage citizens in meaningful ways. Exploration of adding additional public engagement and/or input opportunities was discussed at the Jan 8 Board Meeting and will be a priority topic at the Jan 15 COW Meeting.
“It is a priority of the Board to be responsive to the public and does value citizen input,” said Board Chair Ginny Storlie. “The community has asked for more opportunities to have direct two-way conversations with their County Commissioners and get more answers and feedback. That request has been heard and is welcomed. The Board and County Administration will be working to identify ways in which we can accomplish that together and will be looking at possibly scheduling additional Public Input Forums and/or Town Hall meetings and additional citizen input mechanisms in 2019.”
Watch for additional information and details on input opportunities in the coming weeks and months. Meantime, anyone with questions related to Cook County government are welcome to attend any of the public meetings, contact their County Commissioners or the County Administrator.
Another way Cook County is seeking to cultivate productive public engagement is through the Speak Your Peace Civility Project (SYP). Over the last year to 18 months, Cook County has been engaging with the organization and exploring the adoption of the SYP principles for improved public engagement and dialogue, and trying to get a local presentation on the successful program held locally. An initiative of the Duluth Superior Community Foundation that is available to other jurisdictions across the region, an initial public workshop was finally able to be held in Grand Marais on Dec 10 and discussed by the Board on Dec 11. Adoption of the SYP principles as a standard was tabled for further research by the Board and will be revisited at a later January meeting.
The SYP urges community organizations, elected officials, and citizens to communicate in a more respectful and effective way and is an effort to improve public discourse which can lead to a more effective democracy and help maintain a sense of community by increasing civic participation.
“Balancing service delivery, effective planning for future needs, fiscal responsibility and balancing budgets often involves some tough decisions by the County Board,” said Chair Ginny Storlie. “We are committed to these responsibilities and making the best possible decisions for the County overall, in a meaningful way with constituents. If the Civility Project can help us all do that as a community, we are interested in exploring these tools. It’s important to note that civility isn’t one-sided and doesn’t mean each individual gets what they want; it’s about respectfully working together to understand and achieve our county’s goals.”