Still stung from an implication made last week by a Fairfax County citizen that the county board of supervisors was dishonorable, the board Monday defided to explore ways to keep speakers at public hearings "within the bounds of civility," short of applying censorship.
The board's unanimous decision came in response to what it considered insulting response to what it considered insulting remarks from a speaker at a public hearing last week on sewer rate increases.
Supervisor Warren I. Cikins (D-Mount Vernon), who made the motion in an attempt to prevent similar incidents, said there must be "some bounds of civility and propriety" governing presentations to the board during public hearings.
Cikins said he flet "personally insulted" by remarks made by Robert Kaplan of McLean, vice president of the Northern Virginia Conservation Council. He said the board "shouldn't leave that kind of attack unchallenged."
Kaplan opened his remarks at a lengthy public hearing last Monday night by saying tht he "wanted to get a few things off my chest before this presumably honorable body." He later said that if the board id not keep temporary sewer rates adopted Jan. 9 that it would "reinforce my worst perceptions of your motives."
Last Tuesday the board raised the temporary sewer service rate of $1.18 to $1.41 per 1,000 gallons of water used and lowered a temporary sewer hookup fee of $1,250 to $1,500.
Kaplan also charged that "undisciplined growth is strangling this county and our pocketbooks, and our board is aiding and abetting the process with reckless abandon." These were among Kaplan's strongest statements to the board.
Why did the board react so strongly to Kaplan's remarks?
"The board was trying to work with the very difficult problem of raising sewer rates," said John Lynch, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations. "And then this speaker comes along with irresponsible and unnecessary charges having nothing to do with the issue. I had to get up and walk his statement; there is nobody on this board whose integrity I would even begin to question."
Cikins said Kaplan's "tone of voice had as much to do with his implications as the words he spoke."
Board chairman John F. Herrity had interrupted Kaplan's address, saying, "I don't think this board is about to take an accusation as a dishonorable board as you inply unless you have some evidence to that effect." Herrity and supervisor Alan H. Magazine then walked out while Kaplan continued to speak.
The board Monday unanimously passed Cikin's motion to direct the county staff to explore ways to "observe some rules of civility" during public hearings. Few board members, however, think a solution will be found.
"I'd rather hear remarks like his (Kaplan's) once every six years than be accused of censoring what is being said," said Magazine.
Supervisor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield) said she though "a stron gavel" is the solution to "bringing speakers back into line."
"I resent anybody who suggests that I, as a board member, is in the pay of developers," said Supervisor John P. Shacochis (R-Dranesville) of Kaplan's remarks. He suggested tht the county's public affairs office publish an article illustrating that Fairfax County has "clean government."