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Are county citizen boards for real, or just for show?

July 14, 2003

Was the Washington County Community Partnership for Families and Children required to give the City of Hagerstown 60 days' notice before it cut off funding for the Police Athletic League program?

Stephanie Stone, the executive director of the Community Partnership says no. John Budesky, the city's Director of Administrative Services - and former holder of Stone's job - says yes.

Somehow, we're sure, this will be worked out it. Then it will be interesting to hear Community Partnership's take on how PAL, which won a multi-year grant in October 2002, could lose it by the following summer.

As we said, now that the light has begun to shine on this matter, we're certain it will be worked out, or at least exposed to scrutiny.

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What concerns us today, and what should concern every county resident, is the idea that Community Partnership's citizen board didn't get a chance to look at this matter.

As a normal part of doing business, staffers would have expressed their concerns to the board, which would have evaluated them and then made a recommendation to the County Commissioners.

The reason it's done this way is to give the community - through appointed representatives - a voice in how grants of state money are spent.

That wasn't done with the PAL grant. If the County Commissioners don't want to do it that way, that's fine. They're the elected representatives of the people. And if the people disagree with that, they can vote them out.

But if the commissioners want all this handled by their administrator, they ought not to waste citizens' time by inviting them to serve on a board that doesn't even have advisory power.

If citizen boards are only for show, with their only duty to rubber-stamp decisions that have already been made, the only thing they will accomplish is to make citizens more cynical about government. Is that really what the commissioners want?

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