NOTE: The below essay was delivered, without being read into the record, to the Town Board of the Town of Lockport, NY. In part 4, I continued my further explanation of 12 bylaws presented on 4/10/13. Whereas I am presently circulating a petition for referendum on “bylaws”, I thought (at this juncture) any public explanation might look political—this I didn’t want. To me, these bylaws address, head-on and with remedy, the arrogance so prevalent in our representative bodies.
ESSAY: In my last presentation, I argued that WE THE PEOPLE have a right (of superior position) and a duty to judge our governments—and, so we do. But that’s only the half of it; WE THE PEOPLE also have a responsibility to watch over our governments—as an employer might watch over his employees.
When you, the Town Board of the Town of Lockport, NY, disconnect yourselves from the people and, in turn, we do nothing, we have failed you as much as you have failed us. Government is not something that someone else does; it’s something that we all do. When the people complement or criticize, they are participating.
Previously, I expanded upon bylaws regarding “meetings in general”, “legal notices”, “recording of public meetings”, “meeting agendas” and “meeting documents”, “public commentary” and “public communications”. Tonight, I’ll expand upon “voting”, “dignity”, “enforcement”, “amendability and severability” and “construction”.
a) All Town Board voting shall occur at “monthly board meetings”.
The intent here is to establish a practice which the public can rely upon for observing the voting of Town Board business. Presently, when voting occurs in a “work session”, it is, for all practical purposes, occurring in secret due to its 1pm schedule.
b) The Town Board shall not vote a matter, where there has been public objection(s) at “monthly board meeting”, for at least one period approximating 30 days—the next “monthly board meeting”. Within these 30 days, and before the people, Town Board shall address public objection(s).
The intent here is to stop “runaway” voting. It is unacceptable for a Town Board to request public input and then, when the last speaker returns to his seat, immediately vote the vote it intended. This is nothing short of shameful; misleading the public into believing their voice can influence a vote—and then it doesn’t again, and again, and again.
Hence, where there is a public objection to a matter up for vote, the vote—out of respect for the people—should be postponed and the objection(s) be fully examined and publicly explained prior to any future vote; the earliest vote being the next “monthly board meeting”. No objection is to be ignored or dismissed.
c) Where there is no public objection(s), the Town Board may immediately vote a matter.
It is expected that in many instances there will be no public objection(s) to a matter to be voted, in this instance the Town Board should, without delay, vote as it sees fit.
a) Town Board members, their guests and the people shall treat each other with respect.
b) Should cause be found to silence or remove an individual, including Board member(s) and/or their guest(s)—common sense shall prevail. All individuals may participate in the next public meeting without restriction.
This standard is intended to place the Town Board and the people on equal footing; it may be the board’s meeting, but it’s the people’s board. Whereas it is understood that no board member should ever be permanently silenced or removed so it should also be with the public—what ever the moment requires, it’s for that meeting alone.
a) These rules shall be an enforceable agreement between the people of the Town of Lockport, NY and its Town Board. During a public meeting, enforcement of this agreement shall be the prerogative of the senior security officer—however titled. His judgment shall rule the moment; he is hereby given authority to evict Board members, their guests and the people, for the remainder of the present meeting, only.
b) Where a behavior becomes disruptive to the conduction of a meeting, it is reserved to the senior security officer to provide a remedy. All individuals may participate in the next public meeting without restriction.
11) Amendability and Severability:
a) It is hereby agreed between the people of the Town of Lockport, NY and its Town Board that these bylaws shall only be amended through a public referendum.
This condition is provided to protect the people from an intentional watering-down of these bylaws by future Town Boards.
b) Should one or more of these bylaws violate New York Law, as determined by a court proceeding, this will not affect the validity of the remaining bylaws.
This condition is provided as a means to protect the many bylaws from the possible shortcoming of a few, or even one.
12) Liberal Construction:
a) These bylaws shall be liberally construed, for the benefit of an informed public.
This brings us back to where we started: These bylaws are intended “first and foremost” for public understanding, with each bylaw having its place in the whole.
To view part 1, click here: Public Meeting Bylaws Explained–part 1.
To view part 2, click here: Public Meeting Bylaws Explained–part 2.
To view part 3, click here: Public Meeting Bylaws Explained–part 3.