Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Et Tu, Select Board?

Amherst Select Board 6:29 PM 9/8/14

So it looks like Amherst Select Board Chair Aaron Hayden is taking lessons from former Regional School Committee Chair Lawrence O'Brien when it comes to stifling public comment at a public meeting.

And that, Mr. Hayden should take note, is the key reason why Mr. O'Brien quickly became a former Chair. 

Two weeks ago both John Fox and I appeared before the SB during the 6:30 Public Comment period with our own pet peeves and asked to be placed on the agenda for the 9/8 meeting to have a full public discussion.

Apparently none of the 5 members of the board thought it important enough to request the matters be officially placed on the agenda.

According to Massachusetts Open Meeting Law if an item does not appear on a published agenda at least 48 hours before a meeting, the body cannot discuss it -- let alone take a vote. So that's why questions and concerns brought up during the 6:30 Public Comment period cannot be acted upon, although they do have the benefit of media amplification.

But it sounds to me like Mr. Hayden, who used up over 5 minutes making his comments, is rethinking the entire Public Comment Period.  Maybe he will call it the "Shut The Hell Up" Period.

Then we can change the unofficial town motto from "Amherst, where only the H is silent" to "Amherst, where even the H is silent."


Anonymous said...

I can understand why the select board can't talk about personnel, but why can't the public? Does this mean now the public can never mention an employee name in it's remarks? How does this make any sense?

Anonymous said...

If you're going to mention an employee by name you should have the balls to do it at a time and in a place where the named is present, and within a format where rebuttal and discourse is allowed.

Otherwise you're just being an asshole.

Anonymous said...

Larry, on a daily basis, your blog is a constant and fascinating exercise in reflecting on what is reasonable.

And I believe you can be reasonable.

Your expectation that your "pet peeve" (by which I take it you mean your "concern of substantial public interest") should be quickly placed on a Select Board agenda for public discussion is not a reasonable one.

Just multiply by the large number of people in Amherst who could think similarly and make the same demand of Select Board. We can easily identify a long list of such folks by name. The impulse to filibuster in Amherst is a strong one, for whatever reason.

The strong desire for the unlimited public comment period, which you share with many, many others, is what has prolonged Town Meeting (27 hours this spring)over the years, and makes public service on various boards and committees a role for which many residents believe that they simply don't have the time or patience required. Based on our many contested votes on calls for the previous question in Town Meeting, we have many people who believe that decision-making should only occur after every single person in town has said all that he or she wants on an issue.

Respectfully, I believe that this philosophy, although sincerely held, does more harm than good over time to the process.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Weren't the founding fathers locked into a room in Phileadelphia for a month in August to force them to come to agreement? The political process takes time and argument and facing unpleasant truths. Telling people to go take their problem to the government employee who won't address them isn't what people are elected to do.