Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or

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The “bailout” and public participation

About 30 people came to a meeting at City Hall last night about the city’s efforts to seek an exemption from part of the federal Voting Rights Act.

You can read about the meeting in today’s paper, but one of the big themes was a demand for a role for the public on the front end of the process.

A lot of participants were skeptical about their ability to have any say in the matter at this point, since the city has already hired an outside attorney to help it gather the data necessary to make the case for exemption to the Justice Department.

But that attorney, Gerald Hebert, said last night that this is just the beginning, and that in other localities, citizens have had a role in crafting what’s called the “bailout” agreement, which can spell out how the public is to find out about future voting changes, after they no longer have to be sent to the feds for clearance.

Former Councilman Matt Kelly made a suggestion that gained momentum as the meeting went on: The city should form a citizens’ committee to solicit input into any bailout arrangement.

Many participants at yesterday’s meeting signed up to be on such a committee, which city staff are looking at putting together.

If you weren’t there last night and you’d like to participate, contact Assistant City Manager Mark Whitley at 540/372-1010 or