On Jan. 19, the town of Peru will hold a special town meeting so residents can vote on an ordinance that would give citizens the chance to always be heard by the town's board of selectmen. The ordinance was initiated and written because Peru citizens have no other way to voice opinions or grievances to their elected officials during regular business meetings.
Peru does not have an appeals board and public participation has been removed from the agenda many times during the past nine months. Currently, public participation is allowed only during the first and third meetings of each month. If there is a holiday or scheduling conflict on those dates, there is no participation.
The proposed ordinance states that public participation be set for every scheduled meeting, to be held at the end of the business part, and be set for not more than 20 minutes.
The whole reason for the ordinance is so that future boards cannot take away citizens' freedom to speak. As it stands now, if the board doesn't wish to hear from the people, it removes the public participation portion from the agenda.
The chairman of the board has made the claim that citizens were interrupting the business part of meetings and bullying the board. I don't believe the board has ever been bullied, and public participation was held after town business was concluded.
A vote in favor of the ordinance is a vote to keep First Amendment rights. And although the Jan. 19 meeting will be a town meeting forum, the vote will be by secret ballot.
Arthur Porter, West Peru