Seekonk’s “Practically Private” Special Town Meeting
Seekonk’s Special Town Meeting on February 27th was almost a secret event.
If you had followed the Board of Selectmen’s meeting of March 8th you would have heard criticism of those who questioned a quorum at the meeting. “Few people showed up ….those people who are interested are there. ..It’s a shame but it’s a fact, it’s not going to change,” stated member Mr. Parker. He went on to say they were not there because it “doesn’t affect them, or they trust us.” Chairman Andrade said “I’m not going to worry about getting more people there…it’s not worth worrying about.”
The Board of Selectmen needs to step back and take a look at the big picture.
Yes, let’s discuss getting the information out there for our fairest form of government where everyone has a right to be heard and a right to vote without betraying the principles of a pure democracy.
Here are the facts: On December 28th, the Board set the date of the Special Town Meeting for February 27th. There were 2 minutes of discussion stating the Warrant was opened on December 28th and would close on January 20, 2017. Was there enough time to get information to the Finance Committee? The Town Administrator reported that “this meeting was really for updates to the Zoning By-Laws and Administrative By-Laws. “
Subsequent meetings occurred on January 11th and January 25th with no mention of the Special Town Meeting. It was the meeting of February 8th that the Board reviewed the Warrant Articles which now included a debt exclusion for a new building as well as several other financial articles never before mentioned. With just 19 days before the meeting, the Town Administrator spent a total of 7 minutes presenting these new financial items never before discussed in open session. He had consulted with the Town Clerk and she said it could be placed on the April ballot, “The timing is perfect.,” he said.
The Town Clerk, an elected official, who, as stated under Section 3 of the Seekonk Town Charter, “shall give notice of all Town Meetings” never announced the meeting in the Town Clerk Corner of the Seekonk Reporter. It is in this monthly section that the Town Clerk always reports upcoming Town Meetings with dates and times. There was no notice on the High School’s LED sign on Arcade Avenue, where the meeting was to take place and The Sun Chronicle has not had an article about Seekonk government in months.
Member, Mr. Almeida said “the meeting was advertised, don’t blame us, we try to be transparent to get information out there.” I would suggest that the system we have can only be considered a failure for lack of participation after we make every effort to communicate with all residents. If the intent is to truly be transparent, post signs in the vicinity of high traffic areas to inform residents travelling between work and home to inform them about upcoming town meetings. Apply the language of the Town By-Laws placing signs in at least five public places in the Town including each Precinct within the Town. This is not an uncommon practice in many New England towns that still value their Town Meeting form of government.
Residents of Seekonk should be concerned. On April 3rd there is not only a vote for primarily unopposed candidates, but a request for voters to approve a debt exclusion for a building project that was approved at this Special Town Meeting. Don’t expect to find a sign notifying you….best to keep it quiet.
34 year Seekonk Resident