Editorial: Public Comment

Something about public comment at a town meeting just feels right. It’s an old New England tradition of sharing our community gripes or giving praise and it can be an invaluable part of our municipal government.

The Town Council’s Legislation and Administration Committee is considering a proposal by Town Council member Vicki Tesoro to add a public comment portion at the beginning of each council meeting. The proposal will later go back before the full council for a vote. Some council members were hesitant about the proposal, worried adding a public comment portion could lead to unwiedly and significantly longer meetings. If you’ve ever attended a council meeting, you know that meetings can be long, and full of important votes and discussions. Each elected volunteer deserves a lot of credit for giving their time. Those unsure about the proposal also felt that council members are always available to listen to their constituents and bring those concerns before the council.

In covering nearby town’s legislative bodies, a public comment portion is the norm in most towns and cities. More often than not, no one in the public comes forward with a comment. But it’s good that it’s there. When heated issues do come up, as recently happened at Trumbull Board of Education meetings with the Rent debate, the chairman can limit speakers who go over the allotted time or fail to addresss a topic under the purview of the council.

Chairman Carl Massaro Jr. noted that he is working with the town to get every council member a town email account, which would be a great step in making sure constituents can get in touch with their district representatives. We applaud that idea. But we also support public comment.

In our opinion, anyone who feels strongly enough on an issue to attend a 8 p.m. meeting on Monday night — when they aren’t paid or elected to do so — deserves a chance to speak.