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EDITORIAL: Letting the public have a say

It’s not difficult for a news organization to support efforts to promote the public’s involvement in government affairs. A recent vote by Meriden’s City Council, passed unanimously, is worthy of attention.

That vote supports public comment at all meetings of commissions and boards that are appointed by the council. It recognizes that those who attend meetings often have something to offer, and that government ought to provide the opportunity for them to express it.

“Of course the public should have a say on the matter at hand before a board or commission,” said Bob Williams Jr., a We the People councilor. “Why couldn’t they have their three-minute say?”

No reason, of course, and now there is a resolution to support it.

It’s significant that the proposal was offered, as the Record-Journal reported, by minority caucus members of the council. Along with Williams, they included Republicans Dan Brunet, Michael Carabetta and Ray Ouellet. Williams wrote the resolution, and noted that Councilor Bruce Fontanella, a member of the Democratic majority, wanted to be added to the list of councilors presenting the resolution. That it passed unanimously is also notable.

“If the public is there, let’s give them time to speak,” said Williams. “That board’s chairperson can decide if it’s before the meeting, or after the meeting — to make sure the public has a voice in the conversation. If they’re taking the time out of their day, there’s no reason they should not have their voice heard.”

Williams told the R-J the resolution was prompted by conversations with residents who said “they didn’t get to speak to the matter at hand.”

The resolution notes “public comment can provide the City’s boards, commissions and offices with insight into the impact of their decisions upon the daily lives of its residents and community members.”

The council has now formally recognized the significance of public participation. That’s an encouraging way of going about government.


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