Also during the meeting, commissioners formally and unanimously agreed that one of them should serve on that Allentown-Lehigh County Commission to End Chronic Homelessness.

If the city agrees, one county commissioner will be appointed by Scheller to serve on that commission.

Commissioner Geoff Brace, who proposed the resolution to do that, explained a parallel proposal will go before Allentown City Council at its next meeting, to also get a member of City Council on that commission.

Brace stressed getting elected officials from the city and county on the commission will be only "a starting point to a very broad conversation" needed to address the issue.

His resolution was co-sponsored by Osborne and Ott.

"It is a good first step in opening up a conversation," agreed Ott, who added he would like to be appointed to the commission or permitted "to tag along" with whomever the chairwoman appoints.

"We've got to figure out exactly what the county's role is with regard to these issues and how we can best coordinate and interface with all the various entities that are participating in this," said Ott.

Ott noted that individual county commissioners and City Council members do not have any authority or any control over the operations of their organizations. Both Ott and Osborne indicated support will be needed from the county and city administrative staffs.

Said Osborne: "In and of itself, a commissioner sitting on this board means nothing unless there is a support system behind it."

Some commissioners suggested they arrange a hearing to better understand the county's role in addressing the homeless issue. Ott said such a hearing should include diverse voices rather than "just taking the administration's account of things as the full extent of our knowledge."

New location for committee meetings

Commissioners voted 7-2 to approve Scheller's proposal that their committee meetings should be held "on an on-going basis" in the main meeting room on the first floor of the county government center, just off Center Square in Allentown.

Until Wednesday night, meetings of the commissioners' various committees usually were held in their conference room on the fourth floor of the government center.

A series of committee meetings usually begin as early as 5:30 p.m. on the same Wednesdays that commissioners meetings are held.

Commissioners sit around a table in that small conference room, which also has chairs along one wall.

Much of the discussion leading up to action during the main commissioners meetings takes place in those committee meetings, which also are open to the public.

In addition to members of the county's administration, those committee meetings usually are attended by only a couple of reporters and one member of the public - in a county with a population of more than
355,000 people.

Scheller later explained why she proposed the change: "There's more room down here and in my estimation it makes the meeting more public. People feel this hearing room is a public place, rather than being crammed up in our little conference room."

She also said "it's a more neutral place" than the commissioners' conference room.

Schware called it a great idea, saying it's better for the public, because the glass-enclosed main meeting room is just inside the S. 7th Street entrance to the government center.

Mazziotti also liked the idea, but expressed some reservation about commissioners sitting behind the dais in the main meeting room during committee meetings, saying "it's a little uncomfortable talking to people" from behind it.

"It doesn't seem as informal. That's one of the advantages of being face-to-face at a table."

Mazziotti suggested commissioners might sit around a table in the meeting room for committee meetings, rather than behind the dais.

Osborne agreed the dais may make the committee meetings more "uninviting" than commissioners want, but added the fourth floor conference room also is uninviting because it's crowded, without much seating.

Creighton and Jones voted against changing the location of committee meetings, without saying why they opposed the change before the vote.