At the first public hearing on the plan of merger occurring on 2/2/2021, I read the following statement before I gave only one of the three comments I had prepared. With the limitation on time, I will have to attend the second public hearing in order to ensure my input is heard in a public forum. I also hope my second two points can be summed up in two minutes:
This is a public hearing and I came into this hearing with the understanding that I would have time in keeping with past public hearings. I feel as though this limits the ability of the many new names I see in the participant list to give their full input in a public forum meant for the sole purpose of hearing from residents on a very important topic. I completely agree with the call for civility, but a topic of this magnitude requires residents to fully speak and be fully heard. I spent a lot of time performing a final review of the merger documents as I really want to get this to be the best document possible for the voters who will make the ultimate decision.–Note: this may not be verbatim what I said due to to the fact I felt incredibly rushed. This is, however, what I wrote down once the time limit was announced.
When elected to the Essex Selectboard, I will make the motion to ensure that standing rules for meetings are agreed upon by the full Selectboard at each organizational meeting. This will also include clearly listing those standing rules at the bottom of each agenda so participants are fully aware of those rules and expectations. Whenever changes to those rules are requested, they need to be voted on by the full Selectboard.
While I understand that large groups of people wishing to give input can take a lot of time – that’s democracy, folks! It’s what the entire purpose of a public hearing is meant to be: listening to and learning from all residents. Am I opposed to time limits on public input in general? No, but those limits should be related to the complexity of the topic at hand. The plan of merger is a huge item and there are many questions and concerns – most of which can’t be summed up in just two minutes.