To The Daily Sun
It was extremely troubling to see the Moultonborough Board of Selectmen go forward with the Town's 2017 statutory Budget and Warrant Hearing on February 9, after a 9+ inch snow storm where many of the towns roads were unplowed and citizens were unable to attend and present their views on the budget and 17 warrant articles.
While the chair perfunctorily raised the possibility of postponing or leaving the hearing open, the board unanimously decided that as Friday, Feb. 10 was the last day to notice another hearing (pursuant to RSA 32:5) and the unidentified printer had to have the warrant by the following Monday, "they had to hold the hearing". Of course, had the board the foresight to have noticed a contingent alternative snow date (as other town boards have done), or found a printer
who would not take some 4+ weeks to print the warrant, the hearing to approve a $7,500,000+ budget could easily have been postponed or left open for voters to properly comment.
Apparently, this board has totally forgotten that there is an important difference between a public "meeting" and a public "hearing." At a public meeting, the board is there to conduct its business and may not be required to accept public comment. However, a public "hearing" is for the government entity to obtain and consider public testimony on a noticed matter and to seriously consider such testimony before approving a proposal such as a budget or
enactment of a new law. The intent is to have a board consider the testimony before voting to accept or modify the proposal. What transpired on February 9 failed to meet those requirements, as much of the public could not attend.
I would hope that this action, combined with the Selectboard's recent policy amendment to board policy #33B,4 (mislabeled as Policy # 3 on the town web site), which further limits citizen comments to no more than three minutes during public comment periods, is not a harbinger of even further limitations on the public's input. These actions, after the selectmen's 2016 elimination of the "initial" public comment period at board meetings, represents a significant limitation on public comment and input. It foretells a dangerous pattern of governance by the board without citizen input, and an effort to stifle criticism.
- Category: Letters
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