Why No One Goes to Town Meetings?

by Timothy Bristol

Dear Stratford Resident,

How many of us have attended a Town Council meeting in Stratford recently? I can’t imagine it’s many of us. Town Council meetings aren’t exactly must-see, but Stratford’s meeting seems particularly empty. Now, part of this may be due to Covid, or the late hour of the meetings themselves, but Some of this does seem to be by design.

The majority in the Town Council don’t seem to want the public at these meetings and have done everything in their power to limit public involvement. The scripted nature of the meetings is designed to make them as short as possible. I’ve clocked in at least one meeting at under 20 minutes from start to finish. They have also taken the only public interaction portion of the meeting and held it a solid hour and a half before the real Town Council meeting starts.

If you want to make a public comment to the town council, you must sign up at 6:30, a full hour and a half before the actual meeting, and public comment starts at 6:45, if you do not make that fifteen-minute window then better luck next time. This is obviously designed by the majority in the Town Council to limit public comment and disenfranchise those who want to air grievances at town meetings. But that is not all.

If you make the sign-up period and get to speak to whichever Council Members decide to show up to the public comments, and you speak for the allotted 3 minutes. The council members who are there can’t interact or respond to your comments. Something I find most disappointing. The Republican majority in the Council have put themselves in a bubble. It’s basically the equivalent of sticking their heads in the sand. This is not how to gain the trust of the public, or how to create participation from the public.

Town Council Meetings should be a forum for the public to interact with the council in an official setting. Instead, we the public get a pre-scripted show by the Republican majority, where they all get to play a part while limiting public involvement and the democratic minority. This is not how meetings should be run.

Public comment should be a part of the meeting agenda, during the actual meetings, not an hour and a half before the meeting. I encourage you to go to the public comments at the next Town Council meeting and demand more transparency.

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