Vol. III No. 05 3/1/2022
Reader to Reader
Not sure what the Town Administrator's point is either. However, in this day and age we do not need apparent intimidation from an "official" to a publication that simply reports facts concerning activities in Stockbridge.
Maybe the town "official" should try just stating his issue.
Thank you for sharing your desire for clarification and information.
Best wishes, Carole
Thank you for your contribution to openness in town government activities. I know it has been misunderstood by some and reviled by others.
I have been so pleased with the increased exposure our town's committees have enjoyed as a result of your reporting, as well as because of the employment of technology to let all interested people see what is happening.
I know some members of our government want to go back to the old style, doing things in private, asking people to come to meetings in person if they want to know what's going on, and they have many arguments in that regard, some of which at first glance have some plausibility.
The arguments are a facade, a distraction from the real goal. In the long run, those who want to run our town outside of the full capability of technology to make the goings on available to the entire public have one thing in common: they don't want everyone to know what they are doing. Period.
Regular committee and board meetings are very hard for most to make. Over the years, though I tried, my work schedule never let me attend the meetings I wanted to, I never really knew what had happened. Hybrid meetings would have been so interesting for me and would have allowed me to see my government in action. Alas, it took a major epidemic to put things the way they should always be.
An annual town meeting may be different. It is anticipated and advertised well in advance. Summer people can make it here. We all can set aside our busy schedules and come together for that democratic high point of the year.
I hope our Select Board (SB) knows how important that opportunity to see and hear is to many of us who otherwise could not physically make the meeting. I predict that Stockbridge Updates will become even more important and widely read if the SB decides not to have hybrid committee meetings.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Like many of us, I am hoping our Select and Planning Boards, along with other committees, will continue the video recordings of their meetings to support consensus-building and an informed electorate. There may not be many in-person or Zoom attendees at meetings as they happen. But don't forget that many viewers watch later on TV and via streaming. I believe there are dozens of viewers for both Boards, and a number of repeat viewers hoping to better understand the proceedings.
Why continue the videos? Because people who cannot get to the meetings because of conflicting issues or commitments can still see them later. We have all heard of writing to Congress, a centuries old All-American tradition. You are not required by any law to attend government meetings in person in order to participate, or let your views be known.
It is important for our Boards to be able to control their agendas to get their work done. Board chairs often limit public participation during meetings. At the last in-person 2020 Planning Board meeting before lockdown, a couple of dozen very animated residents attended. Only 2-3 got to speak at the end of the meeting, as I recall.
The videos are also an important addition to meeting minutes, which may be brief or incomplete. I seem to recall a Planning Board meeting where the Chair laid out a list of major priorities for the coming months which never made the minutes. Minutes are not easy to take and their content is loosely regulated. The videos are reference libraries in order to follow-up and clarify the proceedings.
What the state decides is irrelevant unless they prohibit recording entirely. The state will not ban transparency. As a town, we want access to accurate records of our governing Boards. It is not especially expensive, not technically challenging, We can see our government at work for us, we can respond, even if we work the night shift, have young children, are ill, infirm, traveling, caring for a sick family member. It is not the state's call. It's ours. And it's important.
What's going on? Maybe it's the full moon. Conflict of interest? Seriously? Don't we still have freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Can town employees write letters or articles on their own time?
Isn't it part of their job to share relevant information with the town? I really appreciated reading safety tips and details about a criminal incident in town "From the Desk of Police Chief Darrell Fennelly". I would like to know what's going on.
More on transparency: continuing to have a remote component for all public meetings.
On Feb. 12, Governor Baker signed legislation into law that extends the remote option for public bodies from April to July 15. The legislation also allows select boards, in consultation with their town moderator, to lower the quorum requirement for open meetings.
Next step: The Stockbridge Democratic Town Committee will request an agenda item for the Select Board to discuss and vote on the continuation of hybrid meetings with lower quorum requirement, as permitted by law and to continue remote meetings permanently.
For more information on the state legislation: https://www.mma.org/gov-baker-signs-covid-bill-with-public-meeting-provisions/
Photo: Blue Moon Images