Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Put A Sock In It!


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 We have a “daily” newspaper that is typically three days out of date.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.

20 comments:

  1. Given my above criticism of the local paper, I think it is only fair to balance it with a plug for an article set to appear in tomorrow’s paper. The preview gives rise to the question, “Why can’t Southbridge do this”?

    Southbridge Evening News
    TVCharlton will soon stream live online
    by Amanda Collins
    July 31, 2012
    CHARLTON — Folks in town who don't have cable will soon be able to watch TVCharlton broadcasts live from their homes anyway.

    Selectmen unanimously approved the Cable Access Committee's request to move forward with upgrades that would allow for live online streaming of everything that is shown on the town's public access channel at the Board's Tuesday, July 24 meeting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's see if they act on my suggestion to layer the downtown with a Wi Fi signal to attract more visitors to the downtown area. 801.11 technology could be placed on the antenna array at the firehouse.
      Jim Sottile

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    2. http://www.squidoo.com/build-your-own-wifi-hotspot

      You can use old computers with open-source software so every business can add a hot spot then link them together. You then don't need the town to do anything.

      I will donate time to a project like this. Plus I have a few old computer that are useless for anything else.

      Dean Cook

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    3. Great idea Dean. Can I help?
      S F
      Jim Sottile

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    4. Absolutely, it is your great idea Jim.
      I will research the best software and the cheapest why to build hubs. The we can hold a class to teach local people and business how to make them. We can call it the Wifi-Southbridge project. We can use all open source hardware and software. If the business donates there internet connection, with well placed repeater we can cover the whole downtown.

      Dean

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    5. I am trying to understand this whole conversation. I used to be able to get WiFi access downtown when I was in local businesses and restaurants. At the time I had a plug-in that accessed locally available public feeds. Has that all disappeared? What about the WiFi access at the Library? Is it only available in the building?

      I haven’t had occasion to seek WiFi access downtown recently, so I just want to know two things. First, is this really a problem? Second, if it is, does it really require all this private intervention rather than a simple extension of existing public capacity and is it any kind of factor in the miserable state of business in downtown Southbridge?

      Delete
    6. Is this the Love Boat, or what? You really think that wifi is going to drive people that can't afford it to downtown? Here's a thought: they can't afford Internet, chances are they can't afford dinner at a local business either! Nice thought, stupid execution!

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    7. Ken, The Wifi of the library can be accessed outside but not far. I don't know anything about public feeds. Wifi repeater can extent the library reach a lot. Another tech that can be used is open-mesh http://www.open-mesh.com/
      Free wifi to uses downtown will make the area more competitive, possibly more attractive to business.

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    8. Hi, Dean, I admire your spunk, and I love technology, since it's my livelihood...in major cities like Boston and Toronto, it's nice to have, but I don't understand the business proposition of this in our town? Can you explain? Don't let my doubts stop you...I just never heard that this was an issue, and don't see how it makes one more competitive?

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    9. Dennis

      By share the cost of a wireless mesh network across business it lowers the cost of entry in to a marketplace. A cafe or bookstore that whats to provide this to there customer can do it cheaper and would locating in this area more attractive then another.

      Delete
    10. Dennis, as a freelancer who frequently gets work done in various local establishments, I will tell you that freely accessible wifi is a fantastic amenity that definitely influences where I spend my time and money. Dean, if you end up actually working on this please let me know. I'm sure my husband would love to help out.

      Delete
  2. A Strip joint would attract attention. The library has Wi-Fi. You think Wi-Fi will attract people? Yes, a great idea after your last crappy idea of a Town Meeting. Go back to the Future--it looks good there, McFly Sottile.

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    Replies
    1. First you have to install 3 prong outlets every ten feet in the curbside, Marty. Then you rev the flux capacitor up to 88 miles per hour and voila - a vibrant and shiny new downtown!

      Delete
  3. Getting back to the topic, let's all start bringing an extra sock to council meetings and the next time somebody on the dais says "we discussed that in subcommittee" let's whip out those socks and wave them.

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  4. Open Meeting Law requires that sub-committee minutes be taken and published. Sub-committees are governed by the same Open Meeting Law requirements of the full body. Additionally sub-committees can not legally act with the full authority of the full body since votes can only be taken when the full body is in session. If you look closely enough you may have a case that Open Meeting Law has been violated.

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  5. Boy what kiljoys...
    Jim Sottile

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  6. Jim, at least Dean had the courage to answer a very fair question. You always have to criticize those people that don't agree ith 100% of what you say; that's just asinine! You and Butch should focus on what you do best: torpedoing someone's campaign based on your ridiculous theories. Dean, if it need technical help, glad to chat with you. Jim, I'm tired of you're playing both sides. Why don't you and Butch tell the people just how fair and equitable you were the night before the election?

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  7. Hey Jim, you stated previously that you knew who the "perpetrators were"...and that you were going to announce them post election. Who are they? Its six weeks post-election now and I for one am dying to hear. Just more of your usual stirring up the pot with no proof, your usual unaccredited conspiracy theories!

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    Replies
    1. Ouch Dennis,
      S'up striking out at the folks that supported you during the election campaign seems to be unfair to say the least. I support what Dean proposed I did not criticize him or you???????? Check you MEDS!
      Jim Sottile

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    2. Jim, with time I've realized that most times, when someone that suggests that you should "check your meds", that person is the one either on meds or in need of them, so good luck with the dosage.

      Before running, I was "striking out" at your ballot initiative. Now I'm "striking out" in defending something that is indefensible:

      Not coming clean about what transpired the night before the election. Why is it anyone that disagrees with you is "striking out"? Are you and you alone the only person that's ever right?

      Before I ressurect the recent events, which I'm happy to do, you should check with Butch and see if that's the road he wants to go down again.

      You were the person that was misinforming people about me allegedly writing crap about Butch, which I wasn't, and you both now know that. As a result, as you are well aware, there was a last minute, 11th hour appeal by my so-called supporters (yourself included) to get people not to vote for me.

      That's the issue you're completely ignoring.

      Let me ask a direct question, again:

      When will we be seeing who the "perpetrators" were?

      You said you'd announce it post-election, and you haven't. Since the two of you know it wasn't me, and you encouraged people not to vote for me because of it (it would have been nice had you not done to me what Reid is doing to Romney--using unfound claims to defeat the wrong person), you owe it to Ken's readers to be forthcoming with your "results", and/or a public apology to me (I won't hold my breath).

      That kind of support, as I've told you before, is neither needed, nor welcome. I'd rather lose on my own accord, than to have you submit complete falsehoods into a campaign, to find out you were wrong, and give the equivalent of "oops, I'm sorry, Dennis", something that was only done privatley, BTW.

      I know you like to yank my chain...you told me while golfing, so this will be my final comment on the topic...unless, of course, the two of you want to prolong it. I will defend myself and would be happy to keep the details private, or, if you'd like, public. Let me know.

      Delete

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