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The County 5: The enhanced right to participate,
"A little extreme for Columbia County," Com. Nash

Columbia County 5
The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Stephen Bailey; Scarlet Frisina

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – During its last meeting of 2013, the  infamous Columbia County Commission, The 5, missed a golden opportunity to bring in the New Year by enacting rules that embody the Spirit of Senator Joe Negron's Senate Bill 50, which mandated public comment on items to be voted on by public bodies throughout Florida. The 5, used to maintaining the barest minimum standards and making decisions in the back rooms, let stand a rule, which allowed a total of 5 minutes of public comment on all matters which come before the Commission, undermining the spirit of Florida's new law.

When the subject of public participation came up during the December 19th County Commission meeting, Commissioner Nash said, "In our community, other boards have narrowed - compressed their meetings and put them in a box because of the comments and different things. I think they need to get a little thicker skin. You should open these meetings up."

Commissioner Nash asked if County Commissioners were going to set a standard or just be average like everybody else.

Steve Holmes, Exec. Dir. for the FL Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged explained the Commission's rule to allow enhanced public comment:
"The Commission’s General Counsel, who is a member of the Attorney General’s staff, brought up the change in the law.  He and I discussed the matter and felt we should create a Rule to better meet the intent of the Law. The Commission believes this Rule provides a better way to receive public comment and issues in front of the Commission."

Commissioner Nash told The 5 that on December 10th he attended the CTD (Commission for Transportation of the Disadvantaged) meeting in Polk County

On the CTD agenda was a new rule designed to embody the spirit of Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Bill 50, giving the public the right to speak 5 minutes on each agenda item as it came up before the Commission.

The CTD passed the new rule unanimously.

Commissioner Nash explained it this way to The 5. “They give the audience 5 minutes to speak on every action item. We would have our conversation; we would ask the community what they thought; then we would vote.”

Commissioner Nash commented to the Board, “That’s probably a little extreme for Columbia County.”

Epilogue (commentary)

Commissioner Nash, who ran on a platform of opening up government, did a lot of talking to get elected, but has yet to deliver on any promises to meaningfully increase public participation.

Commissioner Nash could have moved for a CTD / Lake City like rule which incorporated the spirit of Senator Negron’s SB50. He didn't. Instead, he remained silent, stuck in the past, which is the present of the legendary Columbia County 5.


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