Editorial: Kudos to Bristol’s boards

Bristol residents should welcome a blanket statement from the selectboard at its last meeting that encouraged citizen participation at all public meetings within the town, and apologized to one resident who was recently denied an opportunity to speak at a recent planning commission meeting.
That blanket mandate was recently embraced by the Planning Commission (see story Page 1A), which has launched an effort to define the rules of public interaction and accountability that it will henceforth follow. The goal, said acting chairman Chico Martin, is for greater transparency and increased citizen participation.
We applaud the commission’s goal, and direction provided by the selectboard.
To that end, we’d also encourage the boards to invite the public to join the effort. One way to do this, which also has the advantage of making the effort seamless and community wide, is to create an ad hoc committee made up of planning commission and selectboard members, along with a couple members from the community. That committee could devote its undivided attention to the task and present its recommendations to the commission and selectboard in a relatively short time — while also getting a more diverse perspective on an issue that directly impacts public participation.
Another resource to invite to the table is Secretary of State Jim Condos. The Secretary of State’s office is in the business of guiding citizens and government bodies in the rules and protocol of public meetings and open records. We appreciate that town representatives do not think the commission violated the open meeting law when Pickens was denied the right to speak, though certainly a case could be made that it did. But that’s water over the dam.
What’s important, today, is that commission members appear to be sincere in their efforts to operate within state laws, act with transparency and serve the public well. In developing such guidelines for public meetings and public documents, what better resource is there than inviting Condos to a meeting so town officials and board members (as well as the public) can discuss the parameters, as well as nuances, of the law?
Angelo S. Lynn

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