Special Meetings Raising Questions

Special Meetings Raising Questions

Dear Mayor Ashcraft:
I am writing this as a public open letter because I think you owe the public an explanation of your actions described below.

At the regular Council meeting of April 21 you stated that at the next regular Council meeting of May 5 you would move for the scheduling of two special meetings addressing Charter revision, one to consider Article 7-3 (Councilmember interference with City Manager) and one to consider Article 26 (prohibition of multi-family dwellings) You also stated that in order to assure full and robust public discussion the meeting notices would be well published ahead of time.

Notwithstanding those public assurances, on April 29 and 30 respectively you exercised your authority as Mayor to schedule a May 6 special meeting on Article 7-3 and a May 7 special meeting on Article 26, thus giving the public the minimal seven-day notice required by our Sunshine Ordinance.

The agenda notice for the May 5 regular Council meeting posted on the city’s website on April 23 did not list an item for Council scheduling Charter revision special meetings. Thus, it is clear that you decided to schedule the May 6 and 7 meetings on or before April 23, thus allowing time to give the public the advance notice that you promised on April 21. However, no such notice appeared in the local papers or social media.

Not unsurprisingly, public comment at these two special meetings was far from full and robust. Article 7-3, which was a major issue of public discourse over the last two years, drew little public comment and Article 26, which drew 37 public comments when presented to the Planning Board in January, drew about one third of that number.

I think it only fair that you explain the contradictions in what you told us on April 21 and the course of action you took thereafter. What was your rationale for moving these meetings to an earlier date and failing to provide the promised well-published notice ahead of time? Was this your sole decision or was it concurred in by other city officials? We have a right to know.