To the Editor:
Might you attend a meeting of a Hopewell Township Board, Committee or Commission as a member of the public? Are you a board, committee or commission chair? If so, then this letter directly affects you.
Recently, the agenda of many boards, committee and commissions has quietly moved the opportunity for public input from the end of the meeting to the beginning of the meeting at the direction of the current administration. At many of these meetings, as well as at a recent Township Committee meeting, I have called out this switch for what it is: an attempt to prevent the public from having meaningful participation in meetings and to deter public attendance. After, who would attend a public meeting to listen to that body discuss an issue of public interest and not have the opportunity to offer a comment on the topic before that meeting was over?
If the public is required to speak before the meeting’s topics are undertaken, how can the public comment on what was discussed? Who looks forward to holding their opinion to the beginning of the next public meeting, typically one month later, when the body has moved on to other business? Why would anyone attend such a charade?
The Township Committee allows public opinion at the end of its meetings as well as at the beginning. Shouldn’t all Township boards, committees and commissions allow the same?
The question is simple: Do you support the right of the public to have meaningful input at public meetings or would you relegate public opinion to a meaningless, late afterthought? Are you for robust public participation in government or for giving only lip service to the public?
While the answer may be obvious to you, at the most recent Township Committee meeting, the majority refused to support the public’s right to speak at the end of board, committee and commission meetings. Rather, the majority decided to leave it to a future meeting of the various chairs of those bodies. What hostility to public involvement! So, I ask the various chairs, please support meaningful public participation at the end of your meeting.
Harvey Lester, Hopewell Township