Letter: The importance of communication

To the Editor:

We, the minority members of the Town Council, thank the residents who attended the Monday, March 7 meeting to have their voices heard. The chambers were packed with residents of all ages. Over 30 people signed up for public comment, and many others sat in support. This was in addition to over 85 emails received.

A majority of the emails and speakers voiced opposition to the selection of Island Brook Park as a possible site for the proposed new senior/community center. Several questioned the prudence of the project overall. Public comments also addressed funding to reconstruct Indian Ledge Park playground as well as an ordinance to fully fund the Town’s pension plans.

We were not in agreement with the Chairman’s decision to delay public comment. After the nearly hour-long presentation by the Senior/Community Center Study Committee, the announcement was made that Island Brook was no longer being considered as the site.

While the information was a relief to many, had this been communicated prior to the meeting, as is required by council rules, many would not have had to take time away from their families and evening activities to attend.

The Study Committee’s report highlights the council’s regular practice of not providing necessary information far enough in advance to allow council members and residents to properly consider agenda items. We have and will continue to press for timely disclosure of information to avoid situations like this from happening again. Regardless of party affiliation, a well-informed and participatory public is vital to the legislative process.

The following is a summary of some of the votes taken last night:

  • We are pleased to report that with bipartisan support, the council voted to restore funding for the replacement of the playground at Indian Ledge Park.

  • Despite our strong opposition, the council voted to enact an ordinance requiring mandatory levels of funding for the Town’s pension funds. We believe this to be in direct violation of the Town’s Charter.

  • Also contrary to our opposition, the council voted to allocate additional $175,000.00 in funding for the Senior/Community Center Study Committee to conduct further community surveys and design a building. It was clear from public comment that the Council lacks a clear indication of the public’s feelings towards this project. We recommend that the committee construct a new survey that uses best practice methodologies so that we have a reliable indication of public sentiment on this issue.

We were pleased that on several initiatives there was a bipartisan support. We are hopeful that this spirit of cooperation will continue through the budget season and that residents remain engaged in the process. That’s how government really works best.
As your representatives, we are here to serve you and be your means of access to the Administration. Despite having just six votes on a council of 21 members, we pledge to represent your voice and your vote to fairly and justly move the Town forward.
Dawn Cantafio, Jason Marsh, Bill Mecca, Mary Beth Thornton, Lisa Valenti, Tom Whitmoyer