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December 25. 2012 9:52PM

Ordinance would ensure right to speak up in Nashua

NASHUA - A city alderman is calling for an ordinance that would ensure the public's ability to speak at certain meetings.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly has filed a proposal that would require commissions and boards established by the Board of Aldermen to include two separate opportunities for citizens to speak.

"I am a strong believer in public participation," Pressly said last week. "At these public board meetings, you have got to include the public."

Her proposed ordinance, if approved by the Board of Aldermen, would mandate that public comment sessions be held at the beginning and end of select meetings.

Currently, some commissions and boards established by the Board of Aldermen voluntarily offer public comment periods either at the start or the conclusion of their meetings. However, Pressly said it is important to have a policy in place that requires public comment periods both at the beginning and the end of meetings.

According to her, many different issues can arise during the course of a meeting, and residents may want to address those matters at the end of the proceeding following an important vote or decision by the group.

"A lot of people don't come to these meetings. For those people who do take the time to attend, they should be acknowledged and given the opportunity to speak," she said. "It is just good public policy."

Pressly is a long proponent of transparent city government, recently voicing her opposition to Nashua Board of Public Works meetings being held at 2 p.m. in the afternoon when she believes most residents cannot attend.

She is hopeful her fellow aldermen will support the proposed ordinance, stressing the need for commission and board chairmen to give each resident who wants to speak ample time, without allowing the comments to continue beyond 15 minutes.

"I believe the chairman can handle it accordingly," Pressly said, adding the Board of Aldermen currently provides two opportunities for the public to address elected officials.

According to the analysis, the ordinance would only be applied to committees, commissions and boards established by the Board of Aldermen, such as the Cable Television Advisory Board and the Downtown Improvements Committee.

Pressly admits she is unsure exactly how many boards would be applied to the ordinance, if adopted. The Board of Aldermen will be presented with her proposal for a first reading on Wednesday.

The proposal will then be assigned to an aldermanic committee for further review and a recommendation before the full board votes on the matter.

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Kimberly Houghton may be reached at khoughton@newstote.com.


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