Except when I was in the hospital and a handful of other times, I’ve been attending borough council meetings in our town for 26 years.
I’ve seen a lot of councils come and go. I’ve seen a lot of people serve our great town, who did a great job and others I have wondered why they have even run. Yes, being on borough council or school board is a thankless job. More headaches than pats on the back.
With that said, here are a couple of things to think about on how our council meetings are conducted.
First off, I don’t like the current citizen comment format, because its just my impression but it leads to a notion that things are being covered up. Council needs to open up the line of communication and not make its citizens (i.e., the people who elected them) wait a month to contradict what a member of borough council says. I am not saying, there has to be banter back and forth, but loosen the reigns a little bit.
Second, unlike what Borough Manager Norm Meiskey said two months that citizens don’t have to pre-register to speak at the meetings, I think if people feel its important to speak, they should have the right to register ahead of time.
Third, I know this will be controversial. But, citizen comment needs to be limited. I’m not saying five-minutes per speaker, but maybe 90 minutes for the entire comment period.
Now, let’s move on. There are different thoughts on this and I’ve been to a number of municipal meetings throughout Lancaster, York and Chester counties. Some have their department heads at meetings, others don’t. Some have their attorney at the meetings, some don ‘t and others have their solicitor issues at the beginning of the meeting, then they leave. Here, we have our attorney sit through the entire meeting and when it comes time for him to give his report, there is usually nothing. So, the question here, why not have the solicitor speak at the beginning of the meeting and get hin out of the meeting. Remember, the money clock is running.
Also think, the department heads should be at the monthly meetings as well.
Now, the various committee reports. Why not make the meeting minutes and agendas from those meetings available to the public to pick up at the meeting. That way, those who attend just the monthly meetings may understand what happens. As I understand it now, all committee meeting minutes go to the council president.
Speaking of meeting minutes and agendas, why not make them available to the citizens ahead of time. Use the borough web page or have print outs available at the meetings.
Now, let’s have one other addition to the meeting, which is at the end of the meetings – the part where it says reports from boards, commissions and authorities. Here usually are none. So, let’s have them give or provide reports for meetings.
And as for inviting citizens to the various committee meetings, just open things up a little and stop the secrecy. I also understand why the citizens get invited to the council committee meetings and I’m not sure I like it. But, here’s my theory. They want citizens to come to the monthly committee meetings because they are rarely covered by the local press. And I know for a fact, there are those in charge of our town, you just would assume that no one would come to any meetings and there would be no coverage in the newspaper, television or other media, so they can do things “their way.” But that will be denied as well. And that is just sad.
Perhaps I’m asking too much, but Columbia Borough has to be more open with its citizens and not make them feel like they are not being heard. On the same token, our citizens need to do the same thing, try to respect our borough council and maybe it’s not too late to turn things around.
Still, if there are others who sit at the head table who don’t like how things are being run, speak up and don’t be afraid to step to the plate.