Public Comment vs Coordination – Part 2: Coordination, Plain and Simple

 
 

By Fred Kelly Grant

Note: This is the second of three posts that explain the difference between federal agencies’ “Public Comment” periods for new regulations, and “Coordination,” a legal obligation of agencies but rarely obeyed. Click links to read Part 1 and Part 3.

CONGRESS HAS PROVIDED A PROCESS WHICH CANNOT BE IGNORED OR  MANIPULATED BY AGENCIES. IT IS CALLED COORDINATION.​

The legal premise of “coordination”​ does not rest on “public comment”. It rests on a position taken by A LOCAL GOVERNMENT in support of its citizens, and it requires the federal agency to act consistently with the position taken by the LOCAL GOVERNMENT.  

The process​ puts local communities in an equal bargaining position with federal agencies. Coordination does not allow federal agencies to simply disregard ​the interests of the public as expressed through its local government. Through coordination, federal agencies can be – and have repeatedly been – forced to vacate a predetermined regulatory outcome.

I have seen this process, and been part of the process more than 50 times where this has happened. Most notable were the federal agency retreat from the NAFTA superhighway in Texas, the re-routing of a railroad  purchased by Warren Buffet, the closing of roads in all the northern forests of California, and the destruction of dams on the Klamath River in California.

In all these cases government agencies IGNORED PUBLIC COMMENT that was opposed to the “PREFERRED” action already decided on by the agencies. However, the local governments in each of those cases used COORDINATION to force federal agencies to vacate predetermined outcomes and restored power to the people. Coordination equates to greater freedom and helps to instill public confidence in our federal government.

To help understand the difference between the coordination process and public comment, let’s go back to the school carnival analogy in part one of this series.

If the school district is divided into sub-districts, and has a policy that says “the Carnival Committee must reach consistency with sub-district policies, and the public convinces leaders of a sub-district that the Carnival Committee’s plans are flawed – maybe a Mardi Gras parade would interfere with a sub district school calendar, or parking lot flow. If the public can convince the subdistrict of such a legitimate inconsistency, the Committee then has to sit down with that sub-district and other sub-districts and reach consistency and agreement. The process defeats the predetermined (Mardi Gras) decision by the Committee. In other words, the school carnival committee has to go back to the drawing board.

THE COORDINATION PROCESS IS A FUNDAMENTAL TOOL TO ASSURE THAT THE SYSTEM OF FEDERALISM IS FOLLOWED.

​Federalism, which our national Founders chose as the basis for our constitutional government, rests on a balance of powers between the national government (the President and the Congress), the states (the Governors and the state legislatures), and local government (the towns, cities and counties). Coordination is the process by which the public – indeed, you, the citizen – can have your direct say through your local government.

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