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Transparency already a goal of Beaufort County Council | Opinion

Beaufort County Council Chairman Stu Rodman
Beaufort County Council Chairman Stu Rodman Staff file photo

Beaufort County Council has set 10 challenging objectives for Fiscal Year 2020:

Correct non-competitive employee compensation.

Upgrade sub-standard office facilities.

Establish an enterprise fund for solid waste and recycling.

Establish a regional stormwater authority.

Ensure full funding for the U.S. 278 Corridor project.

Improve attainable housing, including a housing trust fund.

Address comprehensive smart growth.

Develop a more competitive economic development offering.

Develop heritage tourism.

Fund a University of South Carolina Beaufort academic facility and the Technical College of the Lowcountry’s regional training center.

Council has published quarterly milestones and underlying tasks to accomplish these objectives.

Responsible County Council committees will report regularly on progress toward accomplishing these objectives.

The county municipalities and other interested entities are engaging and excited about the prospects of advancing these initiatives.

I trust the media will fully engage in reporting progress on these objectives, many of which are issues of increasing community concern and interest.

Public engagement has increased recently with several new initiatives:

Public comment time at County Council meetings has been added to committee meetings.

Public engagement at committee meetings is encouraged.

Public hearings are conducted at second, rather than third (and final) readings of new or revised ordinances.

Consent-agenda items are highlighted rather than just passed.

Beaufort County and the municipalities are engaging through the recently launched Mayors Roundtable.

These initiatives advance both public engagement and transparency.

Initially, improved transparency was a preliminary Council objective. It resulted from the facilitator’s interviews with the municipalities in advance of the Council retreat, suggesting that County Council was not being fully transparent.

I recommended to Council that, perhaps, it didn’t belong with the other objectives. If broken, it needed to be fixed immediately, not studied for a year.

It is unclear that the county is not totally transparent since it broadcasts all County Council and committee meetings (which are also available on demand on the County Channel).

Council concurred without objection.

Subsequently, we learned that the county municipalities were actually concerned with 1) having better collaboration, 2) meeting regularly, 3) establishing partnerships, and 4) improving communications.

As it turned out, transparency was not really an issue.

However, since communications is so critical, I am appointing a Communications Task Force to identify ways that we can better communicate with the community and improve transparency, recognizing that confidentially is necessary for pending legal matters, potential contracts, and personnel matters.

Public input on communications is most welcome.

Stewart H. “Stu” Rodman of Sea Pines chairs the Beaufort County Council and represents District 11 (south- and mid-Hilton Head Island).
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