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Just a Thought

I had a very interesting conversation with a Selectman recently. I was attending an Upton Selectmen's meeting and because the meeting was anticipated to be very quick (I think it lasted about 10 minutes), it was held in a smaller meeting space.

Prior to the start of the meeting, the smaller space we were all sitting in somehow turned into an interesting conversation between myself and long-time serving Selectman Bob Fleming. He began detailing what I found to be interesting tidbits on just how different town government meetings were conducted in the 50s and 60s, as well as what it was like when he began serving on the Board some 30 years ago.

To say that things have changed since the adoption of the open meeting law would be quite an understatement. Bob told me decades ago, prior to his tenure as a Selectmen, there was no need to post (or announce) agendas ahead of time. In fact, doors were even closed at times when certain matters were discussed. He recalled when he first began serving as a Selectman, the Board would meet at 7 p.m. and sometimes not leave until 2 a.m. because at that time, the Selectmen pretty much had the responsibility of running the community themselves. Positions such as a town manager or town administrator and other supporting positions were unheard of. My have times changed...

Thanks to the open meeting laws and technology, with one quick click, residents have access to board and committee meeting dates, times, agendas, and meeting minutes on the town's Web site. Meetings are also listed in many community newspapers, including this one. With a push of the remote, citizens can view live televised Selectmen, Planning Board, or School Committee meetings. And if you don't have time to watch a meeting, many are subsequently posted on the town's Web site. Various emails are available to directly contact town officials and some are even taking to social media to inform residents on some of the latest goings on or decisions made affecting the community.

As a result of all this access, citizens have been given a stronger voice and they are using that voice to express their opinions more and possibly deciding to get more involved in their community; and to me, that's a good thing. So when it comes to accessing information about your town's government, ignorance is not bliss; it's just an excuse.




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