2016-04-07 / Letters

Another municipality limits public comment

To the editor:

The public opportunity to be heard at Saco City Council meetings has been shunted. When the new council took the helm, it ushered in changes to the public agenda. Among these changes were meeting times and the opportunity to speak at public meetings.

While it may be inconvenient for some of our working folk to make 6 p.m. meetings, this can be tolerated especially with the streaming of meetings whenever available. We certainly can appreciate the need to retire early and the up tempo style of the mayor in running meetings.

However, what is at issue is the loss of transparency and resident participation, the hallmark of a democracy.

The new council adopted its Rules and Order of Business for the current council in December. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government reviewed the policies approved by the council, public comments weren’t eliminated. The public comment provision was previously listed on the agenda to allow resident to comment on items appearing on the agenda or such other matters of public or personal concern.

“Action expresses priorities.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Raising your hand to get the mayor’s attention does not work since the haste at closing discourse on motions and comments precludes public comment. Unless a councilor recognizes the residents and interrupts the process, it’s move on to the next item.

If you want to view workshop proceedings, you can’t since they are being conducted off camera. To make it even more inconvenient and less transparent, the workshops are often held in a tiny conference room frequently jammed with staff and public.

These events do not make for good governance. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government campaigned for greater transparency and opportunity for the public to voice in government proceedings. Let us not roll back the clock and hide in the closet.

Speak out and let your councilor know you want to be heard at council meetings and workshops. To locate your councilor, follow this link: http://www.sacomaine.org/departments/cityclerk/ wardsearch.shtml.

Please contact Saco Citizens for Sensible Government at input@SacoCitizens.org with questions, comments or additional information.

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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