by Pamela Goodwin
Last November I made a call to Hanne Rush regarding the Open Meeting Law in the state. Several points were explained to me.
I’ve noted that each Board or Commission has a period of time on the agenda for public discussion… There is often a closing paragraph regarding this at the bottom of the sheet. Most boards ‘ agenda is on an official town form. I have enclosed photos for clarification. But, not surprisingly, things operate differently at the Housing Authority Board.
At the bottom of the agenda is the CRTA, Coach Road Tenant Assoc.. You’ll note that one form says CRTA members, another says just CRTA. There is no blurb about “public comment” nor “other topics”. Millie Galeone, acting as Chair, usually calls on residents after the Assoc. officers have spoken. Thus we backtrack over topics that the Commissioners have already discussed during their regular business or that the officers have already brought up during ” their time”. I recently asked the Secretary if I could speak on the same topic & was told that was a problem. If you watch the video tape of the January meeting on the website you’ll see that being a resident & not an officer apparently disqualifies me from having a say at the public meeting. I had to walk out due to the behavior of our President.
At one meeting , the President asked one question & all the officers got up & left, leaving the Chair asking remaining residents ” why?”.. my friend & I were just as puzzled.
Long story short, some tenants have walked out if they feel they have waited long enough for a chance to speak.. On April 13 th I was shushed by officers & thankfully Millie asked me to address the topic since I had given her a handout. The day before the April public meeting at an Association meeting ( w/ guests present) a neighbor was told her discussion was inappropriate. However, the very next day, our President turned over the Housing meeting for that very same purpose. Go figure. I only remained in the room since a police officer was present. I had requested this of the Chief the day before.
I want to be perfectly clear.. Once the Chair began running the meetings and not the Director she has tried to maintain order… I was thrilled to see that she was gifted a gavel. For the most part, I truly believe in my heart it is a matter of education, proper training & accountability, maybe breaking old habits.
My quarrel is insuring that the Open Meeting Law is upheld. You don’t have to be an officer to have a say. That thought is a violation of the CRTA bylaws as well as the Open Meeting Law. I have some homework as far as finding out how to insure videoing. Mr. Fowler is one person: January & February were taped. Our Manager Specialist in Boston was watching them, our shut ins & elderly deserve to see the meetings as well as the public. Several town Boards meet on Wed. nights. Being on camera should mean that people act as adults, minding their “p’s & q’s”, hopefully.
One of my other desires is to get the agenda posted ahead of time in the Community Room & to have the minutes posted or available as handouts. Take it from me.. Posting something does not mean that it stays posted.
Does it seem crazy that only some people were made aware of the meeting?… That fewer & fewer residents attend, that police need to be present? Would I be allowed to watch the surveillance tape? Thank God that our Manager Specialist in Boston is backing some changes… That we finally have the 5 th name for the grievance panel.. That Jack & Margarita of MA Union Public Housing in Boston are coming out for grievance procedure training on May 5 th… That I have a Housing Commissioner in Amherst as a consultant….I met her at the Fair Housing & Civil Rights Conference in Springfield.
Oh..& one last thing.. I just read page 2, Chapter 2, section 1.that all Boards, committees shall meet at least once a month…people can’t just decide to take a summer break. Our issues still need to be addressed in July & August.
I encourage the public to watch videos, attend a meeting, make inquiries, not only to management, come onto the premises. I think the Selectmen, the Town Manager, Board of Health, the Fire Chief could interview a cross section of residents.
There are no ” tenant only” signs. Supposedly personal care attendants, visitors, family, doctors are not allowed to park… It’s a policy I was told was illegal.
So far people haven’t been towed. This is why DHCD is reassessing our parking problem. People from Boston park here, as did Senator Moore, Representative Muradian. I told a physician to park anywhere. We try not to block the fire lane, of course. That’s another story….
Pamela Goodwin is one of the people that all of us depend on to make sure our public officials serve us and respect the law as well as our rights. Not only is she speaking out, but she has reached out to many agencies and officials to seek advice and help. And she is seeking election as one of the commissioners that oversea the Upton Housing Authority.
And Jennifer is filling a need by providing local news and a forum for discussion of local affairs.
Congratulations and good luck to both of you.
Thanks, Jerry. Great working with you. So grateful to have gotten you as a resource through MA Union Public Housing.