January 26, 2009

A Late Meeting Early

Justin Katz

So how is it that I can walk in, at 7:02 p.m., to a public meeting that's advertised (PDF) for a 7:00 start, and the town council is already through the first page of its agenda? It's typical — the meetings really start at 6:30 p.m. [see footnote] — but this evening, I walked into a mildly contentious-seeming discussion between the police chief and councillor Louise Durfee, and it does make me wonder at the appropriateness of such business being conducted before an uninitiated citizen would have arrived.

ADDENDUM 7:21 p.m.:

Council President Don Bollin is absent tonight because of a very unfortunate and close death in the family. My prayers and condolences go out to all those close to the deceased.

ADDENDUM 7:31 p.m.:

A local lawyer seeking a position on the new Juvenile Hearing Board just noted that the children who go awry aren't all from "low income families in North Tiverton" (my neighborhood), but also from "good taxpaying families on the south side of town."

For the record, that I pay way too much to the town to let that comment go without response.

ADDENDUM 7:39 p.m.:

Man of local fame, Michael Burk, just failed in a bid for a position on the Tiverton Housing Authority. Louise Durfee and Joanne Arruda voted for him, but the other four councillors (led by two TCC-endorsed candidates) voted for Elaine Nearpass.

ADDENDUM 7:47 p.m.:

Councillor Jay Lambert just withdrew his suggestion that the council cut their own pay, leaving it as a personal decision for each. Councillors Durfee and Arruda complimented his willingness to take opposing arguments under advisement.

ADDENDUM 8:03 p.m.:

An auditor brought in by the town treasurer is giving a presentation with an overheaed projector and transparencies. Now there's a frugal guy!

By the way, Treasurer DiMattia mentioned that the town currently has reserves in the amount of 1.3% of expenditures, while the town charter requires one of 3%. Nobody gasped, so it doesn't appear that anything will be done with urgency.

ADDENDUM 8:09 p.m.:

The auditor just suggested that the 3% in the charter should actually be 8-10% for bonding reasons.

ADDENDUM 8:27 p.m.:

The auditor just said that Tiverton's net pension obligation is one of the lowest in the state (covering only police officers, with everybody else in the state plan).

ADDENDUM 8:40 p.m.:

The auditor's done, and further along in the agenda: Louise Durfee is suggesting that the council go through its budget line by line before approving it and sending it to the Budget Committee, so the council doesn't get "beat up over it."

ADDENDUM 8:42 p.m.:

Maybe one has to be a lawyer, but I'm not sure how it's possible for the council to vote down a motion to send the budget to the Budget Committee on the grounds that the committee already has a budget with which to work. Semantic debate about whether the Budget Committee currently holds a budget or a proposal or a vague suggestion.

ADDENDUM 8:49 p.m.

A couple of local advocates for animal care are presenting a preemptive request to maintain funds and efforts in light of budget problems. They have offered, to help with funds via a group called Placing Paws.

ADDENDUM 8:56 p.m.:

This is interesting: If feral cats aren't controlled, they will multiply to the point at which they'll start to support larger predators, like coyotes.

My summation might have been wrongly emphasized. In summary, the advocates are suggesting that they're looking for ways to maximize dollars and contribute money to defray the costs and keep the services going.

ADDENDUM 9:18 p.m.:

Councillor Hannibal Costa just suggested that towns sell bonds to buy pieces of Twin River, with the state. No action taken.

ADDENDUM 9:23 p.m.:

The town administrator just announced — as one early means of saving money — that the town will no longer pick up white goods (appliances, etc.) for delivery to the town dump.

Councillor Ed Roderick just asked whether the town can charge for such pickup, and the administrator said that's on the table.

It's only a sense, but I take that as a small shot across the bow of budget cutters.

* I honestly did not know how significantly this comment would be treated. Had I realized that the excessively short-hand version of my thought would be taken so seriously — and literally — I would have taken a moment to flesh it out. The fact is that, during my previous bout of regular town council meeting attendance, I changed the time on my calendar to 6:30, because it seemed that arriving at 7 always led me to miss the beginnings of the meetings. That was the heart of my reference, not any knowledge that town council meetings habitually begin early according to some unwritten schedule. As I formed that concept into words while initially writing this post, it started to get away from me, so I cut it far too short so as not to interfere with my following of the meeting.

I maintain that it has always seemed to me that the council starts early, and given the sparse attendance (except for those scheduled for business), it didn't occur to me that it might be a point of controversy: So it starts early (my thinking went); regular attendees learn to arrive with time to spare, and those with business before the council will do the same, or the council will give them time to arrive.

As for this specific meeting, I can only attest to my observation and conclusion that the meeting began early.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I guess Yosemite Sam blasted away too much in the last episode...

Posted by: thinkaboutit at January 26, 2009 8:54 PM

Ya know, if they really started the meeting early and that's a matter of routine for the Town Council, an OML complaint would be in order.

Posted by: thinkaboutit at January 26, 2009 9:40 PM

Justin: Please be careful in making statements about when a meeting starts, especiall "the meetings really start around 6:30" is so wrong. I attend most town meetings and that just isn't true. Last night you walked in late as the Town Council had actually waited a bit for the solicitor to arrive. Maybe a new watch is in order.

Posted by: Iwasthere at January 27, 2009 8:39 AM

Well, I was there, too, and I wasn't more than a few minutes late. By the time I entered, the committee had waited for Teitz, done the pledge, gone through the consent agenda, and had some conversation with the police chief.

The same thing happened at the last meeting: when I walked in at 7:00 p.m., the meeting was already well underway, with a presentation in process. It reminded me, from when I used to go to every meeting a year or so ago, that I had adjusted my schedule to treat the meetings as starting at 6:30, and I don't recall ever sitting there for a half-hour before it started.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 27, 2009 10:14 PM

Actually Justin, your first addendum proves that you were there late and that the meeting DID START just after 7 because the Bollin situation was mentioned just after the pledge of allegiannce. You didn't speak to anyone so you wouldn't have known otherwise. I don't want to make a big deal of this, but I'm afraid this puts a bit of a crack in your honesty mask.

Posted by: iwastheretoo at January 28, 2009 6:42 PM

My "honesty mask"? Boy does that sting, coming from an anonymous commenter. And a presumptuous one: I received news of Mr. Bollin's loss earlier in the day via a forwarded email. I didn't mention the in-meeting announcement on the list of items that the council had managed to work through before my arrival because I wasn't absolutely sure that it had made one (although I assumed that mention had been made).

And if you were there, and if you were so aware of events as to have noticed my tardiness, how did you miss the fact that I walked in at the tail end of the police chiefs time at the podium — well after the pledge?

Fix your own mask, friend, I think perhaps the scars of dishonesty are showing.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 28, 2009 6:52 PM
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