The Rules of Conduct for Napa County’s Planning Commission are 10 years old. In early December, staff brought forth suggested updates to time limits on verbal comments as well as submission guidelines for written and electronic media. Pretty straight forward on the surface. All Commissioners agreed to staff’s suggestions.

The discussion then focused on how to make hearings more efficient as a few commissioners felt individuals and members of organized groups were using constant delaying tactics during hearings. Apparently bringing in 100s of pages of relevant information right before the commission meeting was construed as a delaying tactic rather than a flaw in the overall process whereby too little turn-around time is allotted.

How could the Commission deal with these ‘delaying tactics?’ Should they deny the submissions? Should the chair reduce the public’s speaking time to shorten the meetings? The focus seemed to be on ways to reduce the public’s participation.

When the revised rules appeared on the Board of Supervisors’ Consent Calendar, individuals and organized groups quickly reacted with dismay. Thankfully, the Board rejected this attempt to limit public input, realizing that a speedy hearing was not the goal.

Many problems identified by the commissioners were not addressed in the revised rules as the changes needed to happen elsewhere. One speaker at the BOS hearing even suggested the commissioners should not be writing their own rules! Conflict of interest?

Thanks to both the BOS’ and the public’s questions at this hearing, the Rules of Conduct will be returned to staff for further review and resubmitted to the BOS at a future date. Click here for more information.

Our hope is that all the stakeholders will be invited to participate in a fair and balanced process of updating the Rules of Conduct.

Today, the democratic process worked! Thanks to all who got involved.