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County Council, April 15

To televise Council but not Finance Committee meetings
Issues over a planning forum: HUD grants, Attorney’s remuneration
Warwick Jones

We thought we had heard it before. And we had, at a number of City Council meetings. The issue was to televise Council meetings. Differing from that on City Council, the discussion was relatively short and there was unanimous agreement amongst Council members to do so.

But there were differences amongst Council members. Council member Schweers wanted both the Finance and Council meetings televised. But Chairman Pryor, fearing grandstanding, wanted only the Council meetings. As Council member Schweers correctly pointed out, there often was little discussion of issues at the Council meetings as difference had been thrashed out at the previous Finance Committee meeting. To be fully informed, the public needed to see the Finance Committee proceedings. In a vote, the view of the Chairman prevailed.

Differing from the City, the broadcast can be satisfactorily done with only one camera. This reflects the seating arrangement in the County Council Chamber where all members of Council face the audience, and presumably the camera. As TV broadcasting is covered in the County’s franchise agreement with Comcast, the broadcast will be free.

The broad cast will not be live but recorded. The tape will be shown on the “government” channel some days after recording but will be also accessible on the County’s web site. No mention was made of making the tape available to other cable operators.

Other items discussed were;

The distribution of $982 000 in CBDG and $517,000 of HOME funds. These grants are made each year by HUD, and a County Council committee makes recommendations on distributions. Generally, the recipients are the same each year though allocations vary. The recipients include such names as Crisis Ministries, Low Country Food Bank and Charleston Bank Consortium. The Chairman and Council member Summey had some minor issues about allocations. Although their recommendations were adopted, Council member Schweers expressed unease with tinkering with allocations that a County appointed committee had determined.

A meeting of representatives of municipalities to discuss planning in the northern part of the County. The “forum” was put together by Council member Schweers and had representatives of the municipalities, the US Forestry Service, the Low Country Housing Trust and others. As Council member Schweers said at the meeting, there was little effort made in the past towards regional planning. This was a step to bring it together. Nothing was binding on the County or any of the represented entities

Chairman Pryor said the Town of Awendaw had complained that the County was treading on its turf. He was also concerned about a request that the County Planning Director, Dan Pennick attend meetings. His attendance could give an official look to something that was not. Council member Rawl sort of said the same thing but applauded the efforts of Council member Schweers.

Council members Schweers was probably taken aback by the criticism of a well meaning initiative. He also had the support of Council member Condon was asked what the fuss was about? Council member Schweers had informed Council of what was planned back in December and there was no objection.

It seemed that Council generally happy for staff to attend the meetings but on the proviso that the meetings were open to the public. And of course, that nothing bound the County.

The remuneration of County Attorney Dawson was on the agenda last night. But there was no discussion, at least outside the executive session. When the Committee meeting resumed afterwards, Council voted to extend Attorney Dawson’s contract for another 4 years and with an option for a fifth year. Council member Schweers was the only vote against the contract. The Post and Courier in a comment today stated that Attorney Dawson’s remuneration was $21,500 a month.

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