In my earlier post “More Southbridge Town Council Sleight Of Hand” I remarked “Don’t snow us with the typical excuse that ‘this was discussed in subcommittee’”.
Well, sure enough, that’s exactly what we heard at last night’s town council meeting when the issue of a transfer from the Cable Committee budget to the school department came up.
I for one am sick of this dodge of responsibility by the council chair and her faithful cohorts. I have never heard this excuse invoked with such frequency and regularity by any prior chair. It is nothing more than an abdication of the responsibility of our elected councilors to properly vet an issue in subcommittee before it comes to full council. Every time this latest catch phrase is invoked it is clearly an excuse for not having an answer to the question being asked. Last night’s meeting was a classic illustration of this.
Since when does the council abdicate its final authority on appropriations to another body as I pointed out in the prior article? Since when are appropriations made with no specification as to what is to be bought, especially when the funds are coming from what is called a capital fund? I could go on at length, but the reader need only review the tape of last night’s meeting to see that this item was approved with no real answers to the questions being raised.
The last time this kind of contempt was shown for public inquiry was with the initial approval of the Industrial Development Financing Authority. When the council poobahs finally deigned to reconsider this matter (because they failed to follow required process for the adoption of the bylaw) it became clear that they had not considered the true implications of their hasty actions and the proposal was dropped.
But let me return to this annoying catch phrase. “It was discussed in subcommittee. If you were interested, you should have been there.” Is a citizen supposed to stop by the town hall every week day to see the latest posting? We don’t have the luxury of councilors who get a weekly packet containing this information or email or phone updates when a subcommittee is scheduled that failed to get in the packet. Sure, councilors tell us at a council meeting when their next subcommittee meeting is scheduled, but rarely, if ever, are we told what will be discussed. We have a “daily” newspaper that is typically three days out of date. Thus, given a 48 hour notice for such meetings, the meeting will already have taken place by the time the notice appears in the paper. And the town website? It makes the local daily paper look like a twitter feed.
Here’s a suggestion to our council overlords, and most notably madame chair. The next time a citizen poses a relevant question about an agenda item at a council meeting and you’re tempted to say “This was discussed in subcommittee” – put a sock in it!
Either answer the question or admit that you don’t have an answer. Stop trying to hold those who elected you responsible for the fact that you haven’t done your job adequately.