Much has been said in recent days about what was and was not done prior to adopting the Immigration Resolution. Both Linda Chavez and the Brookings Institute Report have noted that there was no official public hearing on the Resolution. So how come that marathon citizens’ time meeting wasn’t a public hearing?

According to the PWC government website regarding county rules for procedures, here is the definition of a public hearing:

Public Hearings – Public hearings shall be held after notice has been given in accordance with the Code of Virginia.
Except as provided herein, once a public hearing has been advertised on any matter including a rezoning or special use permit application the public hearing shall then be held to avoid inconvenience to the public. The Chairman may then (a) close the public hearing at its conclusion, and the Board may take or defer action on the matter including referral back to the Planning Commission of any land use issue within its jurisdiction; or (b) hold the hearing open for further public comment and Board action at a later date. At the request of the applicant, the Board may, in its discretion, cancel a public hearing that has been advertised provided the applicant shall be responsible for all costs of advertising the canceled public hearing and any rescheduled public hearing. Any applicant for a rezoning or special use permit may withdraw his application at any time prior to Board action thereon, subject to the provisions of Section 32-700.70 of the Code of Prince William County. No public hearing shall be held on any rezoning or special use permit application which has been withdrawn in writing by the applicant under the provisions of that section.

Well, now that’s a little vague and obscure, if you ask me. Let’s take a peek at the Code of Virginia to see what it has to say about Public Hearing, since the county code references it:

15.2-5431.5. Advertisement of resolution and notice of hearing.
The governing body of the locality shall cause to be advertised at least one time in a newspaper of general circulation in such locality a copy of the resolution creating the authority, or a descriptive summary of the resolution and a reference to the place within the locality where a copy of the resolution can be obtained, and notice of the day, not less than 30 days after publication of the advertisement, on which a public hearing will be held on the resolution.

Now that part of the code looks more direct. (However locating it was not more direct)

I am neither an attorney or a beaurocrat. Perhaps someone can tell me something here that I have missed or not included. However, if a public hearing was required before passing that resolution, there was none. Citizens’ time is not a public hearing simply because it can be about any topic. A public hearing is about a specific topic. A public hearing is advertised thirty days in advance.

If folks are going to be absolutists about ‘rule of law,’ then at least let’s be consistent. No, the Brookings Institute authors are not ‘liars.’ No public hearing was held, not according to code. Was a mock hearing held? Perhaps. I don’t even know that a public hearing is legally required for that specific resolution to have finally passed. Someone else can do that research. That does not alter the fact that no public hearing, according to county and state definition, was held in accordance with the Code of Virginia.

Criticize the Brookings Institute Report if you want. That is fair game. But they were not inaccurate about the public hearing.

[Note: The link to the county website has a security notice about the website’s security certificate. I ignored it and forged ahead. If you can’t trust your county, who can you trust?]

[UPDATE: See comment #14 (Mom) for more information about the state regulations for Public Hearings. One size does not fit all]

17 Thoughts to “Rule of Law! Point of Order!”

  1. IVAN

    Well, this is good enough for me.

  2. SecondAlamo

    Ok, so technically they weren’t lying, but they certaining were misleading in that they didn’t tell the entire truth either. They should have followed with a public meeting was held where the citizens could voice their opinions if so desired. The way the report was written one would think that all of this took place without any public input, and that is what upsets most. Purposely misleading at best.

  3. Elena

    Wow, this is irriatiting, I just deleted my my entire commnent somehow and only t was posted!

    So, let’s try this again. The reality is that Corey denied people their 3 minutes back in July of 07. Given the number of people who showed up at citizen time, he made an “executive decision” and only allowed people 1 minute. In October, after sending out a postcard, urging people to come and speak at “citizen time” he tried to pull the same stunt, only this time, Maureen had the guts to call him on it. A public hearing IS different than citizen time. At a public hearing, the chairman CANNOT deny the rights of people to speak on that particular topic. Lest we not forget, since that time, Corey has mandated a maximum of 30 minutes for ANY citizent time so that it CANNOT be used as a bully pulpit. However, having said all this, let me break it down a little more. Public hearing, schmublic hearing, it really doesn’t matter as far as I can tell. The Board generally makes up the mind long before citizens speak, I don’t care what you want to call it. Every once in a while a surprise happens, and a particular supervisor will change their mind last minute, but THAT is a rarity. Our democracy isn’t really about citizen input, it’s about back room negotiating in PWC.

  4. We’ve been debating the definition of a public hearing for days.

    Usually Lucky Ducky is quick to cite where a term is defined in the Code of Virginia and County procedures.

    But he was strangely silent this time around…

  5. SecondAlamo

    The report did state “while its immigrant population swelled to more than 14 times its 1980 size. Between 2000 and 2006, Prince William’s Hispanic population tripled in size, making it one of the nation’s top counties for Latino growth.” Most of which were ‘undocumented’ I’m guessing. Either that or there was a run on green cards that the feds weren’t telling us about!

  6. A PW County Resident

    “However, if a public hearing was required before passing that resolution, there was none.”

    I would surmise that if there was a requirement for a public hearing and it did not meet the definition of such, then the first argument that an attorney would make is that it did not comply with county code or state law. In the absence of that argument, I would guess that it is not required. Attorneys will tend to make the “didn’t follow the rules” first rather than argue the point of law.

  7. Lucky Duck

    Take your best shot Wackie Mackie…I, unlike you, speak only in factual data. A person should know what they are speaking of before they speak, perhaps one day you’ll get that lesson.

    I am not a politician nor an activist, so I am not familiar with what constitutes a public hearing. But neither have I seen your “expert” opinion or even one of your racist comments on what IS or IS NOT a public hearing.

  8. anona

    Even during public hearings, they can limit people to a minute. I’ve seen at least two public hearings on development and SUP issues that were limited. Also HOA presidents, etc. usually get 5 minutes, but I’ve also seen where they are limited to 1 or 3 minutes.

  9. Elena

    Honestly, I’ve been to probably over 2 dozen public hearings within the past 8 years for various land use issues and have NEVER experienced a time constraint ,except with Corey, at these two immigration specific citizen times. In addition, IF you are a leader in an organization, you USE (past tense as Corey has now changed that also)to be given 5 minutes.

  10. Mom

    You’re mixing apples, oranges, bananas and a cornucopia of other fruit here. There are a number of local rules and guidlines in addition to State statutes that govern hearings. Different rules and statutes apply to different matters. In this instance you have taken the County policy (based on statues generally at 15.2-2204) and combined them with the State hearing requirements for Wireless Service Authorities. Without looking into it, I suspect that the “notorious” resolution did not technically require a public hearing. If that were not the case wouldn’t you then have to have a public hearing for resolutions dor things such as declaring Feb. African History Month, or Satellite Dishes the official county flower.

  11. Moon-howler

    Ok, Mom, the public hearing procedure for the county cites a state public hearing requirement. Which one is the county referring to? When I did the research several areas all pointed to that description.

    How about let’s have a specific. Where is the state definition of public hearing and what makes one different from open meetings or general citizens’ time. I don’t mind being corrected but provide some accurate information rather than just coming by and lifting your leg.

  12. Mom

    Sorry, sometimes I take my knowledge of the hearing requirements for granted. To my knowledge there is no general definition or list of requirements for a public hearing as different issues require different notices. For example, the hearings required for the sale of public property or land use cases are relatively similar, two notices published within a specific time period. Conversely, the hearings required for issues regarding a wireless service authority need only be published once. Setting the tax rate, two publications. Setting a meeting, one published notice with a much shorter lead time to accomodate emergency meetings. The devil is in the details and local government has to be aware of what the requirements for different issues are. One other thing, the time allowed for comments is at the will of the governing board, customarily and I believe as detailed in their rules of procedure, the PWC BOCS allows 3 minutes for individuals and 5 minutes for those representing a recognizable group or other entity. That having been said, the reduction of the time allowed is not at the discretion of the Chair, as Caddigan reminded him last time he tried to pull that stunt. As three minutes is part of their rules of procedure a reduction requires a successful motion to suspend the rules and amend the time allowed.

  13. Moon-howler

    Thank you, Mom, for clarifying the unclear. I see where the issue arises better now. Would you not agree that a public hearing requires official notice that one is to be held a certain number of days before the topic is to be discussed? The Prince William Procedure listing for Public Hearing is confusing. The State regulation is impossible to find, and now I know why. Every avenue I went down sent me to the provision stated in the thread.

    To my way of thinking, a citizens’ time was held in lieu of a public hearing. The mailed invitations/announcements replaced publishing in the newspaper. I continue to be horrified at the waste of money, regardless of what it was for. $30k might pay for half a cop. Half a teacher. Half a firefighter.

    Too bad a real public hearing wasn’t published in the paper in the conventional manner. We wouldn’t be having a debate or hearing hard working professionals called ‘liars.’ I expect the black velvets would all be hollering like stuck pigs if for some reason the county government failed to hold a public hearing over something they opposed.

  14. Mom

    A real public hearing wasn’t required (I think) and in truth would have been no different than the extended Citizens Time. The only real difference is that the text of the resolution would have been made public well in advance of the initial meeting and it would have allowed for a more thorough review and compilation of arguements pro and con. Call me cynical, but I suspect it all a moot point in that this BOCS usually assumes a predetermined stance and course of action (all too evident in many land use cases) and thus all the debate in the world wouldn’t have made a whit of difference.

  15. Moon-howler

    I am inclined to agree with you that it wouldn’t have made one whit of difference as to outcome. I suppose that what torques me is that the ‘Rule of Law’ people are going around shrieking that the Brookings Institute folks are liars and that there was a public hearing. I don’t need to read the report (which I haven’t) to know that there was no public hearing in the legal sense of the word.

  16. ShellyB

    Regarding the taxpayer funded post card, I have a feeling it was in response to the anti-resolution advertisement that appeared in the paper a few days before the post card appeared in our mailboxes. Could be a coincidence, but my thinking is Stewart was trying to match what was done by the non-taxpayer funded lobby. He wanted to avoid a situation where the majority of speakers were against the Resolution. He failed, but to put it bluntly, the Caucasion speakers were about even while it was the Blacks and Latinos that gave the anti-resolution folks the decided edge. The rest is history.

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