State Water Control Board Public Participation is Essential
1. Two basic tenants of a healthy democracy are accountability and transparency. Government is accountable to the citizenry. Through transparency, the citizens are able to scrutinize government actions. Without public participation in the democratic process our form of government ceases to exit. Therefore, I submit the following:
A. VDEQ should revise 9VAC25-11 to ensure the maximum opportunity for public participation.
a) As clearly demonstrated during the pandemic, virtual meetings are an essential component of public participation. All public meetings must be offered as in-person and virtual. All public meetings must be recorded and offered for subsequent playback for ease of viewing thereby accommodating the disabled, the infirm, the working, and all others who are unable to attend a public meeting/virtual meeting because of schedule conflicts.
b) Comments from the citizenry must be allowed through various means.
- In-person during public meetings,
- Via Zoom or similar virtual meetings,
- In writing via email or regular mail, and
- Via the Town Hall website.
B. VDEQ should eliminate 9VAC25-11-30-C. The VDEQ should not be keeping lists separate from the notifications provided by Town Hall.
C. VDEQ should review 9VAC25-11-50.A.2 in light of the 2020 Environmental Justice Study recommendations for building relationships and engaging the public BEFORE writing regulations, guidance, etc. It is far better to engage stakeholders BEFORE issuing new regulations in order to ensure concerns are addressed early in the process. It is much more difficult to make changes once a decision on the path forward is made than to develop the path forward together.
D. Reduce the number of people needed to request a public hearing from 25 to 5 in 9 VAC25-11-100.C.3.
2. I ask you to remember the words of Barbara Jordan, " A government is invigorated when each of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this great nation." I submit that public participation is what shapes the future of this great Commonwealth. Please join me by strengthening our regulations and guidelines to encourage input from the citizenry.