Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Party leaders take issue with county’s proposed meeting room ban

Roanoke County Board of Supervisors

As proposed, the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors meeting room would be used for “government purposes only.” That leaves the Roanoke County Republican and Democratic Committees out in the cold.

At Tuesday’s 3:00 p.m. board meeting the county attorney, Paul Mahoney prepared a policy that would limit use of the board’s meeting room to board meetings, county departments, agencies, committees, commissions, training sessions, and State and Federal government. Board members had discussed the policy change in a May 11 work session.

Gone were uses requiring a $50 fee – no more political, cultural, religious, civic and education gatherings.

A mass meeting held by the county’s Republican Committee on April 15 brought more participants then expected explained Mike Bailey. Bailey was challenged by Al Bedrosian for party chair. Bailey was re-elected as chairman that night and spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Mike Bailey, County Republican Committee Chair

Bailey charged the board with being “overly possessive of the property.”

Rafat Farooqui represented the Roanoke County Democratic Committee. Bailey in a bipartisan gesture thanked Farooqui for his support in keeping the room available.

Greg Habeeb former Salem Republican Chair confirmed that he used twitter to broadcast and send photos of the mass meeting. His “tweets” indicated the room was filled to capacity and the fire marshal had difficulty restricting access to the meeting room. The room holds only 136 people and there were 239 voting in the chairman challenge.

Chairman Joe “Butch” Church said the policy revision had been planned for some time and indicated meetings where “there was a total disregard for the facility.” The April 15 Republican mass meeting only affirmed the decision to address the policy. The facility needs protection and contains expensive audio/visual equipment explained Church.

Chairman Joe "Butch" Church

Church complained that during the Republican mass meeting people were on the dais and raiding the board’s refrigerator. “We’ve had gum wrappers, trash and disorderly conduct in other meetings,” said Church.

Later Bailey said normal attendance at mass meetings numbered no more than 90. It was too late to change the location when they realized there would be more. In addition they needed access to the registrar’s office to credential the voters. The Tea Party Tax Day event held earlier that day in Elmwood Park brought more participants than expected.

He admitted that there were cookies and that the subcommittee did consume bottles of water out of the board’s refrigerator.

Bailey said, “someone wants to make it a big deal.” He took issue with Church making the connection to the Republican Committee. “That’s what bothers me … it’s vindictive for the chairman to bring this up,” said Bailey.

Board member Charlotte Moore agreed with Church. The $250,000 taxpayer funded renovated boardroom needed protection. Moore said she had attended meetings in the past where food and drink were brought into the room.

But board clerk Becky Meador could only recall homeowner associations as other users of the room.

Board Member Ed Elswick

Board member Ed Elswick voiced his disapproval saying, “we should never allow mass meetings in this room again. It was never intended to hold that many people.”

Other residents were incensed that they had no voice in the change in policy calling it “mean-spirited.”

In an email from the Roanoke City clerk Stephanie Moon said the city had no written policy for use of City Council Chambers. Moon said it is “Open for use by political offices, Council appointed boards, committees, authorities/democratic and republic parties/state and federal agencies or organizations as long as it is government related during business and after hours.” She added that the chamber has never been abused.

Richard Flora suggested the policy be referred back for more discussion in a June work session then placed on the agenda at their second June meeting. Board member Mike Altizer agreed saying, “let’s step back and take a deep breath.” CHECK OUT: “Tweeting from the Roanoke County Mass Meeting”

April 15 Roanoke County Republican Mass Meeting - photo by Greg Habeeb

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, Roanoke County Politics

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[…] meeting room usage by political parties and other county citizens. Most speakers had attended the Republican mass meeting on April 15 that added to the board’s concern over room […]

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