The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors met this week with a new face, a new political dynamic and, after a 2-1 vote, a new meeting schedule.
For the first time in its history, the board of three is now made up of two Republicans and one Democrat with Republican Wayne Kenniker joining the board after being the top vote-getter in November’s election for two supervisor seats. Democrat Ann McDonough won reelection, while Democrat Jay Wickham lost his seat. Republican Harley Pothoff’s seat was not on the ballot, and he was reelected as the county board chair on Tuesday.
It was just 12 years ago when Republican Daryl Klein was sworn in, the first GOP supervisor since 1952. Breaking up the single-party board served the county well with a broader spectrum of viewpoints represented. Here’s hoping that continues with this board’s makeup.
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The change in schedule will see the board going back to twice monthly meetings instead of weekly, a cadence that started during the pandemic. County Auditor Kevin Dragotto — a Democrat, whose office is charged with planning and monitoring the meetings — advocated in favor the change. Dragotto lamented the strain preparing for weekly meetings put on his staff.
McDonough, for her part, voted against the change. She recalled meetings that went on all day when the board convened just twice a month.
No one wants to see the return of the seven-hour meeting. But this approach is worth trying. County staff are advocating for it, and the post-pandemic workload should be on the decline. Supervisors should be able to make the schedule work. Part of being a good board member — on any type of board — is getting through decision-making effectively and efficiently with thorough but not circular discussion. Dragotto is on board to help facilitate that efficiency.
Supervisors also voted to hold the meetings in the morning, rather than rotating a daytime and evening schedule as it did previously with the twice-monthly schedule. This idea is a bit more concerning and bears close tracking to evaluate how it’s working. Here McDonough raised the valid concern that most people are at work during the day, and daytime meetings don’t leave much allowance for public comment.
She’s not wrong. Access and transparency are real concerns. However, it’s really only controversial issues that bring out citizens to meetings — county or otherwise. The Dubuque City Council and the Dubuque Community School Board meet in the evening, and citizen attendance is usually meager.
Pothoff’s compromise was to suggest that should a controversial issue be on the horizon, supervisors schedule a night meeting. That’s a decent solution — provided the county is able to facilitate such a change logistically and foretell consistently when an issue will be of higher public interest. Perhaps citizens should have some option to weigh in on when an issue calls for an evening public hearing.
Dubuque County supervisors hold the purse strings to millions of taxpayer dollars, so first and foremost should be serving the public with transparency. Supervisors must take care to evaluate the schedule change going forward to ensure citizens continue to have their voices heard.
Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.
But the city council is fine operating behind closed doors?
Shhhhhh, don’t insult the clowncil!
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