Transcribed Public Comments from the Best Practices Forum of May 13

Members of Northampton’s Best Practices Committee have just made available this transcription of some of the citizen comments from their public forum of May 13. We added a small amount of formatting to improve readability. Click for video of the public forum and see pictures of the comments as they were written. The committee has also made an online suggestion box available to collect ideas for improving the way the city makes decisions.

Written public comments from the Best Practices public forum of May 13, 2008 (partial)


*Need for public dialogue * recognition during meeting of
members of the public *perception that considerable deliberation happens
outside of public view *no ad hominen attacks *lets have less obstructionist
political maneuvering and move to enact a 
vision of viability and progress rather than postponing more valid
public forums such as this one *too stuffy no fun *change rules governing
public comment * don’t mourn; organize—there are many opportunities to work,
participate, make your voice heard. Join neighborhood associations or form your
own. By organizing at the most local level you can make your views known
in a democratic way. * Public comment period is like talking into a void in
that resident input is not taken into account during decision-making * Ditto
*  City Council mtgs are structured such
that it feels our (citizens’) voices aren’t heard * needs to have role
independent of the administration *Include some discussion of schools when it
effects entire city. *Councilors need to model respectful behavior *Council
Committees doing “heaving lifting” on many issues. Public hearings don’t allow
for any process *Less conflict of personal & business interest, more
representation of residents voices, opinions & needs * ditto *we need real
discussions not presentations of what’s been decided. *Use Easthampton
model. Have Mayor sit in the audience and respond to questions if asked *Role
of chair for council meetings *needs to lead the city’s conversation. Council
needs independent legal advise. *No accountability & your words are not
important or material * need a “second” city council meeting time for public
discussion if possible *An open meeting is not necessarily a public meeting.
*Not enough notice in newspaper, not all of the committees are put in the paper
like the Human Rights Committee, too little critiicizism of the town hall
matters, fed up with constant propaganda, prettiness must go, need leadership
not constant kissing up * input is not dialogue, may need “new form” to expand
process so civic dialogue happens beyond city councilors & appt govt.
officials *citizens need to appreciate that they have chosen limits to their
participation by turning over decision-making to vote leaders thru democratic
process– *city committees are process rather than issue oriented. Members of
city committees have a responsibility to communicate activities and issues to
the public. Outward focus *Active citizenship- difference between citizens and
consumers-self government is a process not a commodity or a product *(Q) What
do we want to achieve as a society, and how can our government be a vehicle for
those ambitions?


Development agreement contained overlay district-along w/
many other things. It was an all or nothing document. Made it impooible for
individual boards to review / decide on components. A very disconcerting
document! * Study/ Evaluate Smith’s cash contributions to no ho—does it stack
up to other town/gown relationships. * Overturn Dover Amendment * second that *
No process around content of development agreement * Smith has a lot of money
but we should make them pay more for city improvements and stop letting them
bully and act cohersivlely towards the city * Class issues at play in decision
of Smith * Change planning board rules on decision-making, problems with “home
rule”, problem-mayor appoints planning boad. Public hearings held but not
listened to. * Where was the issue of sustainability during this discussion-why
isn’t Ford Hall green? *Full issues never fully discussed 1e. Mayor’s agreement
* right *decision made before public hearing * a done deal unfortunately


Use media now to get info out (e.g. # of communities sending
trash to N’ton what if any alternative there are, etc * Waste dumps are not
sustainable! They are toxic to the environment and becomes more so with the
passage of time . They have a huge financial price tag over time. *Consistent
information is needed from the planners of this project to the public * reason
for this projecvt has not been clearly communicate to the public *it’s our
trash and we have a responsibility to deal with it, not shove it off to some
other community *keep the dump for us-not outsiders-and we won’t need an
expansion *Start mandatory compost program use $ made for city look into
bioremediation using plants, fungi, to take up toxin. Great research and
educational opportunity *More education about recyeling composting use NCTV.


Open meeting laws—committees—staff * “Home Rule” *disclose
the lawsuits against city decisions and the tax payers expense of each *Email?
*Charter review * Public hearings too late, too restrictive, not equally fair
to both sides *Ditto *Improve outreach to increase diversity on city boards,
especially regulatory boards, i.e. Planning Board, Conservation Commission,
etc. *City Council needs independent legal advise *Ditto * Boards and
committees need to be better informed about legal process and procedures and
need to assure citizens have opportunities for input * Open meeting law as
practiced impediment to participation * Not enough openness in the govt or
coverage of negative aspects of what goes on in govt. * To many at the cost of
residents-just do the right thing * What are the legal issues are we getting
the best advise *


Evry city household should have access. @make bidding
process public on Northampton City projects *city needs more resources.
Individual overrides too labor intensive & expensive. Get rid of Prop.2 ½!
For heavens sakes! 


Planning board
meetings should be time limited
*I want a more cohesive fell to our new
buildings and developments to reflect who we are*why doesn’t Northampton have
an urban designer working in City Hall*What a good idea!*ditto*I believe we
need more openness and less underground discussion and manipulation in all
decision making honestly, openness, integrity. *We need to stop being so petty
we need jobs, income and we have to stop putting obstructions up to new
worthwhile businesses*The city government likes the hotel design and has
encouraged this development*I am heartbroken that what will be much a central
piece of architecture was not planned with appearance more monitored by our
city government*Loss of millions in sales revenue-exclusion of residents*ditto*where
was the issue of sustainability during this decision making process? Why didn’t
the RFP call for a green building?*Shocking intrusion into downtown
Northampton*ditto*Will be the only private building in this very public place,
BAD!*We need housing for the homeless “dignity village” in Portland
Oregon*generally city council discusses opening and understandably to the
general public somehow the water issue was not understandable to the gp whereas
the permitting process? There were many public forums on issues surrounding the
hotel and results saved to change some aspects of the design but I question
whether the permit should have been issued before the public had a chance to
way in on the topic* Wished that it wasn’t a chain and was developed by someone
invested in Northampton*Get rid of current city planner new ideas, responsiveness-current training* Public involvement
started much too late*public is often
slow to respond to new issues tend to wait until it is too late*deposition of
city property should be done by a much larger, citizen and stakeholder based
committee. See for example the citizens advisory committee model still in the
ordinance booth*Public needs to educate itself on whole issue*it’s a green
building*being “green” also includes human rights*feel loss of control in my
own neighborhood. Give me a voice!*find your voice organize in your own
neighborhood*what happened to respect*


this should belong
to us*did you go to the open meetings??*whats the method of publicizing
these?*falling thru the cracks?(pun intended.)*isn’t a park*hurray for
greenspace wherever it exist within a city!*more greenspace less
concrete*edible landscapes*community bulletin board to get the word out*too
fast!*too many activities areas*how has this beautiful space deteriorated into
a place for drug dealing?*analyze how children and teens use park*Can’t we find
someplace to have an effective community center for adolescents?* what is
happening to memorial hall- a city treasure* how relate to Memorial Hall, Academy
etc?please pay attention to sustainable landscaping. Lots of turf? Large tree
removal?*Role of media in framing issue distinct form information/public notice
other formats to communicate openly-both ways distinguish information from
communication*Publicly developed plan for park usurped by special
interests*especially private for-profit entities*bring back the public


*needs its own
policy board to lead much wider public conversation*more aggressive research
concerning alternative refuse treatment techniques*Dido*actually look into
alternative ways, not just one way*do you want to send your trash to
China???*No*the process and the decision making roles should have been clear
from the beginning*Pollution of land and water is wrong-if councilors vote for
this who is accountable


On cities webpage
have a clickable link to a site that would list all city boards and
commissions, the work they do, who’s on them, how you could apply to be on one,
i.e. what positions are open*ditto*ditto*ditto, but city must expand budget for
M.I.S/webservice/etc.*ditto great ideas match the complainers with all the work
that needs to be done!*website is not always user friendly-sometimes you have
to know how to find what you are looking for*Have a 1x/yr “job fair”/”committee
fair” to fill positions on committees, give info on running for office etc.”