This week Council did something new and different. We had a weekday meeting.
Mayor Hameeduddin suggested that Council meet in open session at 2pm instead of our typical 8pm meeting time.1
Truth be told I was a bit skeptical. I wasn’t entirely sure that anyone would show up! We walked into the council chambers to this scene:
A packed house
Literally, every seat was filled. We had an overflow crowd in the halls. Residents were speaking at the Good & Welfare portion for well over an hour, telling the council about their concerns and informing us of how they wished us to proceed.
This was democracy in action and the daytime meeting provided a rare opportunity for many who otherwise couldn’t, to come and address council about their concerns. We will continue holding these types of meetings throughout the year (hopefully supplementing others meetings with additional ways people can address council-members, e.g. video from home).
The importance of having more people be able to contribute
One of the reasons I was so happy this was such a success is because there’s always a nagging suspicion that some of the voices we keep hearing aren’t representative of the community at large.
Squeaky wheels may or may not represent everyone. If you only have meetings at a certain time (and limit input to those that can physically get to the council chambers to wait for the Public Input session), you may not hear from the full panoply of opinions that a Township of 40,000+ residents enjoys.
Hearing from a greater share of residents before we take actions ensures that we have the benefit of better deliberation of ideas.
The experiment will continue
I think that a packed house with residents speaking for over an hour (at 3 minute increments from 3:00:35 to 4:02:08), many of whom said it was their first opportunity to come out to the council meetings, certainly vindicates the notion that we may not have been hearing from everyone at past meetings.
We can, and must, continue to do better. I think Councilman Dunleavy said it best:
“The Council did this as a demonstration of trying to be more available, getting insights from more people. We are focused on the future, better, more valuable services to our residents, improvement of infrastructure, advocate for our town’s fair share of state funding etc. Being a leader in denouncing hate. There will always be the few who see the cloud instead of the silver lining, who want to re-litigate the past. That is not what will position us in the future. As part of this continued outreach, I will be holding a forum just for the seniors on May 23rd to give them an opportunity to speak to me and 2 other members of your council. Look for details coming soon. Also note Council mtgs on 6/18, 9/24 and our December mtg will all be a 2pm open session start. Hope to see many of you there.”
Now, let’s work on being productive
We live in an age where we have the benefit of nearly instant communication with our elected representatives. That means that people can reach out to me at any time and get responses in real-time about their concerns. There are so many moments we, as your representatives, get to see positive resolutions (e.g. when I was able to help a resident that had struggled to get a sign by their home for an autistic child or when our businesses & residents suffer less red tape because we removed overly-burdensome and unnecessary regulations). And there are other times when we realize the profound ways that the good of the many affects the individual. Decisions are not always easy, but they become better as we talk, openly and honestly.
I look forward to listening, talking and shaping that future in collaboration with residents and my fellow council-members.
In addition to more day meetings we are seeking possible options for adding additional opportunities for those that may not be about to make it out to us.
If you have suggestions on how we can better serve you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or share them in the comments.
- Council historically met starting at 8:30pm from the time we incorporated in 1895 until approximately the mid 80’s.