Back in January, the Board of Selectmen started broadcasting their meetings live on public access television. Selectman John Rooney said at the time he would like a way to make the experience a bit more interactive for the viewing public. In his first act as the board’s new chairman last week, he proposed a way to do just that.
Rooney said he would like to set up an email address that residents could send questions and comments to during board meetings. Emails would be monitored while the meeting was in progress by the Town Administrator and passed along to the board as appropriate.
“Attendance here is very rarely standing room only,” Rooney said of the board’s meetings. He said he hoped giving residents a way to comment from home would open up the meeting to a larger audience and encourage more participation.
But not everyone agreed.
“I can’t support that,” Selectman Bill Boland said of the proposal. Boland said it would not be fair to those bringing business before the board to allow residents at home to comment.
“I’m more a believer that if you want to participate, you should come out and speak your opinion,” he said.
Boland also said he was concerned emails from residents would bog down the meeting, and that there would be no way to verify the identity of the sender.
Rooney said those emailing questions or comments would need to identify themselves just as they would if speaking at the meeting in person, so there would be no “cloak of anonymity.”
While in favor of providing alternate ways to participate, Selectman Dan Kolenda said he was concerned the email approach would not allow for the sort of back and forth discussion that can take place in person.
Rooney admitted that the proposal only has value if residents are interested in the idea, and if they are in fact watching the live broadcast of Board of Selectmen meetings.
The board will discuss the idea at their meeting tonight. What do you think? Is the proposal a good one? Would you take advantage of the opportunity to participate from the comfort of your couch? Answer the poll below and then share your thoughts in the comments.