Former Councilor Suggests Changes To Public Comment

During the Jan. 22 Town Council meeting, state Rep., Tom Dolan, who previously served as a Town Councilor, proposed that the Town Council reconsider its rules for public comment.
He said he has been thinking “over the past several months” and the public comment portion of the meeting can get a “little rough.”
“This would be a modification to your rules,” Dolan said about what he proposed the Town Council does to change public comment.
Dolan explained that it’s hard to recognize sometimes that “this is your meeting and you’ve invited the public to observe your meeting.”
He said in some cases the Town Council invites members of the public to speak “which is typically what we call public comment.”
“You’re in the business of conducting the town’s business in public,” Dolan told the Town Council.
He explained that the rules for public comment at the State House are different than they are for the Town Council currently, saying that their rules could be “altered.”
For example, if there is a committee hearing, the Chair of the committee will “insist that the comments from the public have to do with the item on the consideration and that other comments are out of order.”
“You do set the rules for your own committee here,” Dolan said.
His suggestion would be to make it so public comments would be encouraged to be about items on their agenda and if someone wanted to have a public comment about something not on the agenda, then the comments may be something “better offline.”
“It might set better expectations for the public that they know during public comment that comment will be contextual and limited to the items on your agenda,” Dolan said.
He stated that ultimately they should think about ways to “alter the way you hear and consider public comment.”
Resident, Ann Chiampa, said she disagreed with Dolan.
“I think this is a forum where town residents can voice their opinion, they can ask questions…but also you encourage us to come to meetings and be involved in the process,” she said.
Also during the meeting, Council Chair, John Farrell, asked for a consensus from the Town Council to have all 91A requests posted to the town website for the past year and going forward, along with the information sent back to the requestor. Fellow members agreed with the plan.

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