City Council Takes Another Look at Public Participation at Meetings

The City Council unanimously voted at its meeting Monday night to send to the Legislative Affairs and Election Committee  an order that once again might change the rules for the Public Participation part of the council’s regular agenda for the second time in as many months.

Since the first of the year, there have been a number of residents expressing their opinions on a variety of topics at the council meetings.  Earlier in the year, councilors voted to extend the total amount of speaking time from 10 minutes to 20 minutes.  However, this did not allow all those who attended the meeting to speak.  The rules were changed to allow speakers for those 20 minutes, but then to have those who still wanted to speak to be able to do so after the council had completed its agenda. 

However, Sandy Juliano, a resident who has spoken almost on a regular basis at the council’s meetings since the first of the year, told the councilors on Monday night that she had wanted to speak at a recent meeting on the matter of the reappointment of Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas, but by the time she was provided with an opportunity to to speak, the council already had approved his reappointment.

“Public participation is a good thing,” Councilor Michael Marchese told his colleagues. The proposed new measure, he said, “would not restrict anyone. We need structure only on matters happening on the agenda.” 

Councillor Richard Dellisola suggested that there be two sign-in sheets for speakers, one for participants who wish to express their views on matters that are appearing on the agenda that night, and the second for those who wish to speak about matters not on that night’s agenda.

Councilor Stephanie Smith asked that the order be sent to the Legislative Affairs and Election Committee. with the public being asked to send in their comments on the structure of public participation.

“We want public input,” Smith added. She noted that all councilors can be reached by any residents to offer their views on the shape of the Public Participation at the council’s meetings.

In other matters:

Councilors voted to accept a grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in the amount of $100,000 for the Industrial District Design Guidelines.  The councilors initially had held up their approval of this grant until they were able to definitely find the area being earmarked for the grant.

Erin Deveney, the Chief of Staff of the Mayor’s Office, appeared before the council to answer their questions. Deveney explained that this is the old Exxon site area.  This study will provide “a consistent vision“ for the area, she said. 

The councilors wanted to know if the $100,000 was enough to complete the entire study. Deveney said that she did not know, but noted that there is money in the FY23 budget to provide additional funding if needed. Councilors voted to send to the Traffic Commission a resolution to eliminate on-street parking in the vicinity of 73 Clarence St.  Marchese noted that this is a very dangerous corner and at most there would be only three spaces lost

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