Open Budget Hearings

The Daily Journal ran an editorial lauding the county open budget hearings.

When politicians turn talk into action, it’s important to take note and credit those who keep their promises.

Such is the case with Cumberland County Freeholder Director Louis Magazzu, who pledged to hold public hearings on departmental budgets to assess requirements and to look for items to cut. The goal is to balance the county’s 2010 budget using a minimal tax increase or none at all.

Those hearings will be held on Mondays starting Feb. 15 with the departments of Planning and Development, Veterans Affairs, Board of Elections and superintendent and schools. The hearings, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of the Administration Building, will end March 22 with the Office of Employment and Training, Finance and Administration and Office on Aging and Disabled.

Normally, I would agree.  Open meetings that invite public discussion are paramount to transparent government. And, amazing enough, many citizens come up with workable ideas.

However, do not be fooled. In these “public meetings” Lou only wants to hear what Lou wants to hear. One only has to go back to that December Freeholder meeting in 2008 when Linda Forbes questioned the $225,000 giveaway to Tri County for childrens’ programs (half of that money went to salaries, and there was another proposal that came in at $40,000 – no salaries) and was immediately taunted and lambasted by Lou Magazzu, and condescended to and ridiculed by Joe Riley. Dr. Riley insisted that teen pregnancy was nothing more than a “health problem”, refusing to acknowledge the evidence of social and cultural factors.

Unless Lou reigns in his tongue, and promises to treat ALL residents and ALL opinions with respect, these “open meetings” will be nothing more than a sideshow, wasting time and energy that could be spent addressing the problems.  And I have known Lou long enough to know that he does not change.


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