Reader questions conduct at recent public hearing
I saw the letter by Karen Clark that was published on January 31. If I were to copy the last two sentences of her first paragraph, word for word, I would be accurately stating why I am writing to you, although I would state it more firmly! It is what is stated thereafter which makes it sound as if I attended a totally different meeting and I might have, as I attended only the public hearing at 6 p.m. and not the afternoon session at 2 p.m.
I attended the public hearing on the request for two Special Exception Permits (SEPs) at Daleville Town Center for a Wawa to be built there, my first attendance at such a meeting in quite some time. I left in disbelief! It was if I were attending a sporting event when Supervisor Michael (Karen Clark calls him “Walt Michael” – maybe a close friend?) was introduced – an outbreak of clapping, cheering, yelling, whistling as if their team had just scored the win. I found that strange as I would have thought that both new supervisors (Mr. Michael being the “newest,” per Karen Clark) would have been introduced at the 2 p.m. meeting and that would have been the ceremonial occasion, but once that was over, I thought the meeting would proceed with orderly conduct of governmental business. I could not have been more mistaken.
During the public comment part of the public hearing which soon followed, the same type conduct occurred after each person spoke opposing the granting of the SEPs, after any vote made by Supervisor Michael and after he muttered anything. If anyone were to speak in favor of the matter, they were rudely interrupted or personally attacked. It appeared as if they were Supervisor Michael’s private cheerleading squad, and their conduct was quite disruptive and well out of place at such a meeting.
As the hearing went on, it almost appeared as if the method of conduct by those in opposition were an effort to intimidate or bully the Board of Supervisors into making its decision their way. Before I spoke, someone commented that few, if any, were there who supported the matter being heard. No wonder! When I spoke in favor of it, one or two blurted out and interrupted my comments because I was actually presenting sound reasons for granting the SEPs, and they did not want my voice heard! Another unsuccessful attempt to bully and intimidate.
The Board of Supervisors has “Procedures and Governing Rules for Public Hearings and Meetings,” copies of which are posted and made available to all in attendance. Governing rule No. 8 reads “Recognized speakers and the audience should exercise courtesy at all times.” Apparently, there were many there who either can’t read, can’t understand or think this rule does not apply to them. Truly shameful!
And now we get to what Karen Clark said about Supervisor White. After the public hearing was closed and supervisors were asked for comments, Supervisor Michael announced that he had done three surveys and that they were all overwhelmingly opposed to granting the SEPs. That announcement was the first I and many others in attendance had ever heard about any such survey. Why did Supervisor Michael not make everyone aware of these surveys while the public had an opportunity to comment about them?
Nevertheless, Supervisor White asked him a very relevant question about whether or not his surveys had been scientifically conducted. His response fell far short of answering that question just, as I suspect, his surveys fell far short of having been scientifically conducted.
Opinions can certainly differ about whether or not such a question is condescending and/or disrespectful. I thought it was quite pertinent. The question she should have asked is why he did not share the existence of same at some time during the public hearing. Frankly, she could have asked many more questions about the “surveys” he conducted on Facebook and on his personal website such as (1) How were the survey question(s) developed? (2) What methods were used to ensure that whatever questions were asked were neutral, unbiased and clear? (3) What software/collection platform was used to perform the survey(s)? and (4) How were survey respondents selected, and how were they determined to be representative of the overall population of Botetourt County? Answers to those questions should have been a part of Supervisor Michael’s answer to Supervisor White’s question, as they could have been the basis for determining whether or not the “surveys” were scientifically conducted. They were not a part of his response and probably for obvious reasons. I hope they are forthcoming.
I did not notice what Karen Clark says “was how blatantly obvious it was that Supervisors White and Nicely had their minds made up how they would vote before even entering the Greenfield building.” I did notice that no supervisor made a motion to grant the requested SEPs, and I noticed that the vote was 4-1 to table the matters for “up to” 60 days instead of “for” 60 days as Supervisor Michael wanted to do. I think what she accuses Supervisors White and Nicely of having done is exactly what her team leader may have done, maybe even before he took office.
I think many more citizens are involved than those who show up to complain about everything, and they do not attend these meetings as they are not interested in observing or enduring the type of blatant conduct which was on full display at the public hearing on January 23, 2024!
John R. Patterson