Letter to the Editor
The Chester Town Board needs to change its policy on public comments at our board meetings. Presently, any public comment needs to wait until the near end of the meeting. If residents would like to talk about an agenda item that’s being voted on or something being discussed that night, they are unable to give input until after the vote or discussion takes place. This takes away their voice and ability to inform their public representatives on how they feel. They have no way to influence the public discourse on topics that come before the town before they are acted on. We can do better.
Some may say that residents can call Town Hall beforehand or send an email/letter about it or wait until a public hearing on the matter. Rarely do residents know what’s going on in the town before it shows up on an agenda, but agendas are rarely ready to be posted more than a day or so before a board meeting. So many of the town’s issues get discussed and voted on without dedicated public hearings.
Giving residents the opportunity to speak face to face with their representatives on the Town Board and have that broadcasted to the public at large is second to none in terms of public engagement. Many have expressed that they feel their voice isn’t heard or doesn’t matter, and it shows. Mostly the same people, less than 10 or so, show up to Town Board meetings and the public comment issue surely contributes to this public apathy.
If you would like this to change, please email me at email@example.com in support of my proposal. I will ask for all of your comments to be read at the February 9th meeting and added to the minutes. I will then be pushing for a vote on this at the meeting of February 23. Either we move public comment to the beginning of the meeting, or we split it into two parts, one at the beginning for agenda items being voted on that night only and one at the end for any other topics.
You can also call town hall and email the other board members and the Town Clerk to let them know how you feel as well. Just make sure you request for it to be read at the meeting and added to the minutes.
All of our contact info is on the town website. It doesn’t matter how it is right now or how other towns do it. What matters is what is best for the residents of Chester. This modification of the agenda can always be changed later, but I know it will only be an improvement.
Chester Town Board