They’re still on the city council
Not to worry, the members of the Clinton City Council are still on the council. They haven’t left town, following their controversial vote last week to allow beer sales at city-sanctioned festivals.
“Where are they?” was a question posed to me in a phone call last Wednesday. A couple e-mails to city hall gave me an answer - some members were attending the Clinton-Newberry Natural Gas Authority board retreat in Beaufort.
Understand, please, this is the time of year when your elected representatives might disappear for a while. Spring is the season of board retreats.
Some of these are conducted out of town, although this is a long-time, thorn-in-the-side issue for community journalists in South Carolina (elsewhere, too, I would suspect). Most journalists can’t afford travel, motel and meals to follow a public body to a resort to cover a retreat, so the natural question is, “Can’t they do this in town?” Usually, the answer is, “No,” and when pressed, the expanded answer is, “Cause John’s wife always calls him to pick up bread on the way home.”
Get out of town, get away from the phone, the logic goes. Then, the “true business” of the retreat can be gotten down to - this was before cellular phones became so ubiquitous. Now elected officials can be texted, tweeted, pinged, snapchated, e-mailed, instant messengered and for the old-school just called, just about anywhere, just about any time. If they don’t respond, they are subject to the voters’ complaints - “They only care about us at election time.” Just know, the people you elect, between now and summer, are going to be going to the municipal association, the counties association, the school boards association annual meetings - yours truly went to the SC Press annual meeting on March 17 at a really nice hotel in Spartanburg, that’s offered in the spirit of full disclosure.
There is one more chance for people to express their views, pro and con, about alcohol at Rhythm on the Rails, and all subsequent functions where the city manager issues a permit. So there’s no real reason to get all panicky that some elected officials aren’t in town - and it’s all “hush-hush” about where they went. Some times they just want to a minute away from you people.
It’s actually a good idea for a public body to issue a statement when the board is going to have a retreat, because they are still subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Budget workshop? Yep, still, FOIA.
Committee meeting? Yep, still, FOIA.
Four of five members meeting for breakfast? Yep, still, FOIA. A case out of Charleston settled that issue.
Of course, issuing a “quorum of us are at a retreat” statement brings up the natural question - Where? Then, there’s all that out-of-town-retreat debate, previously discussed.
Just stick with what the Laurens County Council planned to do last night (April 10). They wanted to have a “budget workshop” - kind of an informal discussion about spending the taxpayers’ money - so they decided to have it “after” their regular meeting, staying in the council chambers and cranking up the SmartBoard. That’s a pretty good idea - Laurens isn’t as glamorous as Beaufort, but it’s more affordable. They even have a coffee shop, in an art gallery, right down the historic courthouse’s back steps.
(Vic MacDonald is The Editor of The Clinton Chronicle, and the Laurens County Council is his regular beat. Contact him at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org)