Friday, January 28, 2005
Civic Support Network identifies barriers to greater participation
Elissa Abruzzo, speaking for the Civic Support Network (CSN), told the Selectmen on January 11 that through public forums the group has identified five barriers to greater citizen participation in town government (see sidebar). The committee had made several recommendations, including:
• earlier meeting start times
• better meeting preparation
• training for chairs in effective meeting management
• greater use of sub-committees
• advisory roles for those who don't wish to join a committee
• clerks for each committee
• some morning meetings
• a free babysitting service
• a web site with job descriptions
• a change in the law to allow non-U.S. citizens to hold town positions and vote.
Selectman Chair Tim Hult agreed with the need to train committee chairs and said, "Two times a year, we could make that commitment." He also agreed recruitment could be enhanced. But he noted some of the other recommendations were harder, particularly morning meetings. "If we hold public business during the day, that excludes input from working people." Debbie Bentley of the CSN noted that many working people would prefer early morning or late afternoon meetings and said evening meetings are a significant barrier to recruitment: "People tell me 'I can't leave Town Hall at 11 p.m.and function at work the next day.' "
Tony Allison supported a change to the citizenship requirement, saying, "If you live here and pay taxes, you should be able to serve on town committees." Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie will look into what is required to change the rule. She will also investigate how to structure a babysitting network so the town isn't liable.
© 2005 The