Step up and say what’s on your mind – Citizen comment period at Council meetings is open to all

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By Transcript Staff

The Winthrop Town Council will continue to give all residents an opportunity to address the board during the “public comment” portion of its meetings. The Council voted to give citizens five minutes to speak on any issue they feel is pertinent and any councilor may extend that time if he or she so desires.

The reason for the five-minute limit is obvious: A resident could abuse the privilege and go “on and on” for as many minutes as he or she would like and meetings could potentially last to midnight.

So the Council has the right idea when it imposes a 5-minute limit with the ability to extend it when a councilor so chooses.

  • Tom McNiff

    Well, what a breath of fresh air. The Transcript and Town Council are willing to allow citizens to speak. Maye the editors and councilors need to read doctuments from recent town history, such as:

    “Q: How much citizen participation is possible under Winthrop’s council-manager government?
    A: A spirit of altruistic volunteerism has always been a hallmark of Winthrop. It is not an understatement to say that, without the dedicated service of so many citizens serving on boards, commissions and committees, the town simply would not function. In addition to
    opportunities to serve the town in various capacities, input from citizens is welcome and is facilitated in a number of ways. The town manager is accessible and responsive.
    Councilors each have voicemail and e-mail accounts through which citizens can make their opinions and concerns known. IN ADDITION, CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES PUBLICLY AT COUNCIL MEETINGS AT WHICH TWO PERIODS OF PUBLIC COMMENT ARE INCLUDED IN EACH AGENDA. Finally, the council hosts two meetings each year, one on financial matters and the other on delivery of services by the town, at which time the floor is open for comments from Winthrop’s citizens.”

    The quote above is from a link from the Town Council section of the Town of Winthrop website. That link is entitled “Winthrop’s Town Council-Manager Form of Government: Answers to Your Questions.”

    I suspect there may also be a mandate requiring public comment periods during Council meetings in the Town Charter. I wonder if the charter designers meant for a Town Council president with exactly two meetings since taking office under his belt to make a strong effort to stifle citizen commentary during Council meetings. Was the charter consulted prior to the vote on the five minute rule? If so, was the town counsel (lawyer) asked for an interpretion?

    Tom McNiff
    Grandview Avenue
    Winthrop

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