Neall Invites Citizens To Talk Back

Four Public Hearings Lined Up For Sept.

August 18, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

County Executive Robert R. Neall next month is giving citizens a chance to tell him personally what they love, hate and gripe about in local government.

Neall announced last week that he will conduct four public hearings in September designed to reveal what the public thinks government should be doing. He says he wants the information before he and his department heads meet in October to begin planning the fiscal 1993 budget.

Neall held similar hearings last spring, before the current budget was approved.

"We're hoping to hear from as wide a range of interests as possible," said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary. "Having these hearings in September gives us much more time" to prepare next year's budget according to the public's wishes.

The administration also plans a scientific telephone poll of 800 to 1,000 people "so we'll be able to balance what we hear from the squeaky wheels with the mainstream," Neall said.

"We want to make sure what's expressed at the meetings is really representative of the residents of the county," explained Hayman. Many of these public meetings tend to be attended by the same people all the time."

Public hearings on the budget are held each spring after the executive presents his proposed spending plan to the County Council. But Neall is the first executive to solicit public opinion before constructing his budget, Hayman said.

The public hearings are scheduled for Sept. 17, 19, 24 and 26 at high schools in the northern, southern, eastern and western sections of the county. Locations have not been finalized yet.

From 6 to 7:30 p.m., citizens and special-interest groups will be able to meet privately with department heads, Hayman said. A public hearing, chairedby Neall, starts 7:30 p.m.

The telephone poll will be conducted during the last two weeks of September by Anne Arundel Community College's Center for the Study of Local Issues, said Pat Gonzales, an analyst and researcher with the county Office of Economic Development. Gonzales, a former political pollster, is writing the survey and will analyze the results.

The survey will consist of about 60 questions and take about 10 to 12 minutes to conduct. Only adults older than 18will be polled.

A typical question would ask citizens to rate theimportance of several government services, such as libraries, garbage collection, education or recreational programs, Gonzales said. Thencitizens might be asked to rate the county's performance for each service.

"If 90 percent of the people said garbage was important, but only 5 percent said they thought garbage service was excellent or good, we'd know that's an area we'd have to work on," Gonzales said.

County researchers are especially interested to see if concerns in the city of Annapolis differ markedly from the rest of Anne Arundel, he said.

The poll will be scientifically conducted, meaning that the sample will reflect the demographics of the county, Gonzales said.The margin of error for an 800-person sample should be plus or minus3 percent, he said.

Neall said all information from the hearings and the poll will be used during his "Strategic Planning Conference" on the fiscal 1993 budget, scheduled for late October.

For the first time, the Board of Education and officials from the community college have been invited to participate in the conference.

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