Next month the taxpayers of Southbridge can expect to get whacked one more time.
The Town Council will once again go through its annual ritual of hand-wringing while raising the tax rate and most likely maintaining its status as the highest among local communities.
While we have blessedly been spared the lecturing and hectoring practiced by the former council chairman Cathy Nikolla, we are no better off. The current council leadership has assiduously shied away from controversy.
Nothing could have made this clearer than the action this week in the location of their joint meeting with the Southbridge School Committee. While the agenda contained a number of items of interest to Southbridge residents, Item number 4 (Discuss Unemployment Figures & Costs – Pat Gardner, Superintendent) was of particular note.
However, rather than scheduling this joint meeting in council chambers facilitating broadcast, it was held at the middle/high school library. There was no competing use for the council chambers Thursday night. Even if there had been, the Town Council and School Committee would have taken precedence. In addition, the Town Hall is open later on Thursday nights.
I have wracked my brain on why this choice of venue. All things considered the only conclusion to which I can come is an effort to conceal the specifics of what was said at the meeting from the public.
Not that the local cable access channel was any help. Inquiries indicated that they were making efforts to make this meeting available for broadcast. Perhaps this was true. However, the agenda filed with the Town Clerk’s office indicates that it was filed on October 23rd, a full week before the meeting. Why wasn’t there time to use the facilities that were in ample supply at SMHS to prepare for this meeting to be televised?
There seems to be a concerted effort to focus public attention on a bicentennial celebrating fifty years of community decline and other diversions such as councilors and public officials participating in the dunk tank at Southbridge Fest. However, there do remain a few of us at least who would like to be aware of what is going on in our town other than bread and circuses.
Perhaps it is past time to pay more than lip service to the concept of transparency in local government.