One of the most common questions I get asked is “Why are you running for mayor?” While I can give a lengthy answer to this question that includes my specific plans and platform, the shortest version is that I think our current administration has forgotten the core principles that guide our democratic government. Instead of a government by the people and for the people we have elected officials who shut out citizen voices and ignore their concerns. I witnessed yet another example of our current administration’s failure this morning at the regularly scheduled Board of Public Works meeting.
Charlestown resident and voter David Reed appeared before the board to express his frustration with the management of the Luckett & Farley contract related to the proposed Family Sports Complex. Instead of being allowed to engage in a reasonable discussion with the Board or getting clear answers to his questions, Mr. Reed was cut off from completing his statement and given vague answers by the mayor.
Mr. Reed previously came to me when the sports project was announced and asked if there had been any discussion about the cost to build this park. He was concerned because the contract states that a cost analysis would be provided to the city along with other deliverables by August 2019. When I told him no, he asked how to get in touch with people who could answer his questions. I explained that he could make a public record request through the Clerk Treasurer’s office for any documentation that was available. Since that time, Mr. Reed has worked within the proper channels of communication to obtain the cost analysis mentioned in the contract but has not received the document. I received the following message from Mr. Reed on October 17th:
Mr. Reed thought that he might get answers if he appeared before the Board of Public Works since they are the ones who approved the contract (See that meeting summary here: BPW Meeting 06/03/2019 . You can listen to the audio of today’s meeting and read a summary of what happened here: BPW Meeting 10/21/2019
Although, like Mr. Reed, I am also curious about the missing deliverables including the promised cost analysis, my greater concern is the management of this public meeting and the treatment Mr. Reed received by our current administration.
Mr. Reed should have been allowed to finish his statement.
The total duration of this meeting was fourteen minutes and forty seconds. Allowing Mr. Reed to conclude his prepared statement would not have made the meeting run exceptionally long. Other than city employees and board members there were only three audience members present today and only one, Mr. Reed, signed up for public comment. A government by the people, for the people, listens to its people.
Mr. Reed should have been allowed to respond to the Mayor’s rebuttal.
In other meetings I have witnessed a dialogue between the mayor and the person making public comment following their initial statement. There is no valid excuse for refusing to engage in dialogue with Mr. Reed in today’s meeting. He was not disorderly or rude in his statement and simply sought answers to valid questions.
Mayor Hall’s comment on the lack of discussion in public meetings is a weak attempt to excuse this administration’s disregard for its constituents.
Mayor Hall claimed that board members and city council representatives do not discuss agenda items in public meetings because they receive their packets of information several days in advance and have time to read and ask questions before the meeting. Previously, City Council representative and Board of Public Works member Ted Little has made this same statement and said that discussion is avoided so that meetings can run more efficiently. Today’s published meeting agenda included only one item of business beyond the standard approval of the prior meeting’s minutes, regular claim approvals, and payroll allowance docket. The only other item listed was the BMS contract (which Mayor Hall almost forgot to address). That means that the other items of business brought up by the city engineer and Economic Development Director were NOT on the agenda and not presented to the board members in advance. In fact, I witnessed the city engineer place the claim information packet on the desks of the members immediately before the meeting was called to order. Regardless of work or research performed by board members behind the scenes, public meetings exist not just to move city business along, but to ensure that we, the PUBLIC, have access to the information. It’s inexcusable to withhold discussion simply because those in the positions of authority happen to know what’s going on.