Town Meeting Puts Public Warrant Hearings to Committee
Brookline Town Meeting votes to put the question of open town meeting hearings to a Moderator's Committee.
The question of public hearings on warrant articles has been sent to a committee, with an answer to come back later this year.
A majority at Brookline Town Meeting voted to refer article 9 to a Moderator's Committee. The article would require town committees considering warrant articles to hold public hearings about those articles.
The Committee will bring their conclusions to the Special Town Meeting in fall.
Petitioner, and Precinct 10 Town Meeting Memeber (TMM) Jonathan Davis explained his article, "It is a simple premise: if there is a commitee taking a voted position on an article, the commitee must hold a noticed public hearing."
He went on to say that currently, public comment "can be allowed at will or whim of a chairperson [on a board or committee], and it can be truncated at will or whim of the chairperson."
Selectman Nancy Daly explained the Board of Selectmen's position that they require "further discussion on whether all boards should have public hearing."
"Many boards, such as us and the Planning Board, are used to being in rough and tumble political fray." However, she described the Assessor’s Board as an “expert opinion,” saying "it may not be necessary, or even appropriate for them to have a public hearing."
The Selectmen's original vote was to put the matter before the Committee on Town Organization and Structure, however after consulting with Town Counsel, they concluded that a Moderator's Committee may be a more appropriate forum for the debate.
Co-petitioner Regina Frawley, a TMM of precinct 16, said that the towns of Arlington, Clinton and Reading all have similar policies or bylaws.
"This is such a no brainer elsewhere that shock was registered elsewhere," she added.
Said Marty Rosenthal, Brookline PAX member and said, "I and Brookline PAX are very supportive of what this article is trying to do. I hope it will be passed in a better form, with things that we think need a closer look."
Some committees, Rosenthal said, could benefit from public hearings, such as the Advisory Committee; others would not benefit, such as the School committee. He went on to explain that while some claim the article requires hearings for committees that report to Town Meeting, the article does not explicitly say that.
The Moderator's Committee will return at Fall Town Meeting with their findings. Article nine was the last article discussed last night. Discussion and voting on the rest of the 30 warrant articles for 2012, will continue Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Brookline High School Auditorium.