WATCH the video.
By Debra Zimmerman Murphey
A majority of the Charles County Planning Commission reached a new all-time low in favoritism and mudslinging when it voted at an Oct. 1 meeting to censure its chairman, Courtney Edmonds, as this We Make It News report shows.
The censure move came after former chairman and member Lou Grasso – whose votes and viewpoints are often on the flipside of Edmonds’ – read a prepared statement that chastised Edmonds, among other charges, for not maintaining appropriate decorum at Planning Commission meetings and undermining a development-focused advocacy group, specifically the Balanced Growth Initiative (BGI). Grasso pointed to Robert’s Rules as the mechanism that allows such action.
But the irony is that Grasso has been disrespectful to Edmonds on numerous occasions and seems to be unaware of his own behavior, our video report reveals. While the atmosphere at meetings is sometimes contentious, we believe there’s enough blame to go around and also believe that the democratic process is one in which debate and disagreement are guaranteed through the rights of free speech. Indeed, criticism of public officials and public figures are part of the workings of this nation’s political and capitalistic system, and debate is sometimes fiery.
We do not have a monarchy in which heads roll when words wound.
So, it seems unlikely to us that this censure vote is mostly about Edmonds and his leadership. It appears to be more about politics and Charles County’s good-ol’-boy structure (and hierarchy) rearing its head.
Indeed, Grasso isn’t always a perfectly composed commissioner. Cases in point: Grasso has publicly chided Edmonds; yelled at meetings; and made demeaning and flippant public statements about those who want more preservation in the county.
In a letter to the Maryland Independent, for example, Grasso wrote that the “green lobby” wants to “strip” people of their property rights, “with no viable plan for compensation” – a position that twists the truth. Those advocating for preservation have consistently displayed concern about farmers and have repeatedly asked the county to examine the possibility of a more robust TDR program and a new PDR program, as well as explore other possible financially-based compensation models.
Furthermore, Grasso’s battle attitude as a loyal foot soldier to endorse long-held planning and growth-management policies in Charles County makes it clear that he does not value and act on facts and information presented by all citizens and groups. Why does WeMakeItNews.com say this? Because Grasso has not voted for any new environmental and economic studies and analyses to help guide the 2012 comprehensive-plan update and this is a resounding failure, in our estimation.
Additionally, the timing of the Planning Commission’s motion to censure Edmonds is important. Does the majority believe certain former elected officials enjoy a significantly higher social status than the average citizen does, and that certain folks in the public arena should not be criticized or questioned, while others, such as Edmonds and those concerned about environmental issues, should have their concerns set aside, and tolerate regular poundings and/or angry crowds and ongoing mischaracterizations of their goals?
Grasso, whom along with three other members, Bob Mitchell, Joan Jones and Joe Richard, who voted to censure Edmonds, seem to ignore one overwhelming American truth: holding the majority does not equate to a democratic- or God-given right to quash those in the minority. The fundamentals of Robert’s Rules and the Parliamentary procedure are clear that opposing viewpoints should be studied, balanced and appropriately judged for their merit and veracity. Specifically, the majority should “act according to its considered judgment after a full and fair ‘working through’ of the issues involved.” [Source: http://www.robertsrules.org/]
As Thomas Jefferson said: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
Video and audio pieces for We Make It News are produced by Tobin Communications.