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‘You’d better be prepared…’


Council’s citizen comment rule revised



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September 25, 2011
SOUTHBRIDGE — Rehashing several arguments raised at last week’s Town Council meeting regarding Rule 8, the General Government Subcommittee took two hours Thursday, Sept. 22, to unanimously decide on how it wants the full council to address citizen comments at future meetings.

The new method is subtly different from the old one, but clarifies a distinction between Citizens’ Forum and agenda items. For the former, which will specifically address just non-agenda issues, citizens will get five minutes, plus an extra five if the council so votes. For the latter, people get three minutes, plus two extra if the council so votes, when a specific agenda item comes up. In both cases, people will get just one chance to talk.

“You’d better be prepared when you come up to that podium,” urged Council Chairman Cathy Nikolla, who noted councilors see it “as just as offensive” when citizens come unprepared as citizens do when councilors are. She was the key proponent of the “one bite at the apple” amendment, arguing she wouldn’t support the rule without it.

“The person should have his speech ready in front of him,” otherwise the talking “gets dull, gets boring and gets under your skin,” agreed citizen Roger Caouette. “... People take advantage of Citizens’ Forum to be in front of the TV screen.”

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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