A failure to communicate

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

That famous line from “Cool Hand Luke,” a movie filled with quotable lines, applies to what it occurring behind the scenes of Sussex County Council.

The recent nonaction on the Lingo-Townsend rezoning application is a prime example of what occurs when public officials stop communicating or choose whom they speak with.

It was Councilwoman Joan Deaver’s mission to get the application, which, if approved, would pave the way for the Village Centre shopping and office complex, on the Tuesday, Jan. 12 agenda.

And according to council protocol, because the application is in District 3, which she represents, she has the right to set the timetable for it. Deaver said she spoke with Council President Vance Phillips about placing the item on the first agenda for the New Year, but conceded for the second meeting.

Somewhere along the line, it was either taken off the agenda or never placed on it without Deaver’s knowledge. That’s gap number one in the communication miscues related to this matter.

Deaver said she did everything she was supposed to do according to the rules of procedure to get the application on the Jan. 12 agenda. But because Councilman Mike Vincent requested a few more weeks to mull the matter over, it was not placed on the agenda. That was after Deaver told her constituents and announced in public it would appear on the Jan. 12 agenda.

No one told Deaver of Vincent’s concerns; she read his comments in the Cape Gazette. That was the second communication miscue.

Phillips claims Deaver did not instruct the clerk of the council to place the item on the agenda; Deaver claims she did. There is another communication question.

It appears in this case, Deaver did not have the final say when the application is placed on an agenda.

Vincent asked for 60 more days back in October and he was granted the time; the 60 days expired the last week in December. That motion implied the matter would be placed on the first agenda to start 2010.

She said the matter should be on the Tuesday, Jan. 19 agenda.

There is a bigger issue here than an application on an agenda. It appears Deaver is not privy to some communication between other members of council. Regardless of which side of the fence council members sit, open communication is paramount to proper governing of the county.

And another oft-quoted line is apropos as well: communication goes both ways.

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