Last month while watching the Salisbury Selectmen meeting, I noticed how openly and blatantly they violate their own policies for public participation at their meetings. I also noticed how they rudely talk over members of the public and try to silence those who have something to say that the selectmen would rather conceal.
They call public participation at selectmen meetings “comments by visitors” in Salisbury, which gives you a real understanding of their disdain for the public since the “visitors” who comment are actually Salisbury voters … and by the way, their bosses.
It’s interesting that the Salisbury selectmen see the taxpayers and voters as “visitors” in their domain, and it is further reflected by the way they treat their “visitors”.
“Visitors” who wish to comment on town issues at a Selectmen meeting, have to wait until the end of the agenda (sometimes hours) before they are allowed to speak … you know… after the selectmen do their own bidding on town business.
Then, when the selectmen finally finish their own business and open up the microphone to “visitors comments” (for those who had not gotten discouraged and stayed through the whole meeting), they disregard their own three minute policy and allow those who praise the board to speak as long as they want … while cutting people off who say things they don’t like after only ten or 20 seconds.
Even in Lawrence, city council meetings hold public participation where there is a secretary who keeps time and rungs a bell when your three minutes of speaking are up. Even the Lawrence City Council schedules their public participation at the beginning of the meetings so that residents who would like to speak on items before the council that night can tell their elected officials how they would like them to vote.
You will notice Salisbury does none of this. The fact is, most municipalities have long ago recognized that public participation at government meetings should never be shoved to the end of a meeting agenda.Government bodies that employ this tactic, do so to discourage public involvement and transparency. It’s on the same level as voter suppression and it should never be tolerated by the citizens of any community.
What’s more, public bodies that respect the voters and taxpayers, at the very least, have the appearance of fairness, while public bodies like the Salisbury Board of Selectmen prefer to have no time keeper, and apparently don’t even follow their own rules when a “visitor” has something to say that they don’t like … or in the case of last month’s meeting … when the person speaking at the microphone was someone they personally despise and have routinely targeted for political retribution.
The Salisbury Board of Selectmen conducts the town’s business as if you, the taxpayers and voters of Salisbury, work for them not the other way around.
But it’s the people of Salisbury who must demand a change and force their subordinates on the board to have a more uniformly applied procedure for public participation. And they can start by not demeaning the voters by calling them “visitors”.