Muzzled by executive session? Perhaps.

By Rockland City Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf | Jan 20, 2021

I am in an interesting position. Having not been involved in any Executive Sessions (ES) discussing the cell tower, I am not bound by any confidentiality agreement. That may change this Wednesday. At which time, City Council, the City and the Planning Board may all be muzzled.

An ES is scheduled this Wednesday, Jan. 20, to meet with the Planning Board, Council and an attorney. To get up to speed, I attended a Planning Board meeting a few weeks ago. The topic? Bay Communications and the cell tower. The board discovered they were defendants, and would be found in contempt of court if they did not approve the cell tower application.

What was highlighted at the board meeting by Chair Laustsen and members was a list of what they perceived are inaccuracies in the written settlement agreement. The board voiced that Council, City Manager and attorneys must not have read the Planning Board response of denial to the Bay Communications application. The consensus is that the Council and City just signed off.

True? Some of us will find out Wednesday, but the community may not if the discussion moves to ES.

Easy questions: Did Council go into deliberations accepting that there were no options other than to grant the approval of the cell tower? If this is the case, did Council enter discussions with Bay Communications addressing the board concerns about the sidewalk and fencing?

Supporting the board's contentions that they were left out of deliberations is a comment by then Councilor Geiger. Paraphrased, Geiger said Council wanted to limit the number of people involved in the lawsuit. That merits a "Wow" and a nod to the Planning Board’s concerns.

Some have said the board is in the wrong and made mistakes. Maybe they are. Maybe they have. Knowing what we do of the board they can handle being enlightened.

This is not the first time the board has received pushback or negative feedback. The board can publicly handle whatever Council or the public may throw at them. This is verified by their willingness to be held in contempt.

Is this Wednesday’s meeting a misuse of ES? Possibly. If there is something proprietary or confidential that precludes a public discussion on a zoning issue let the public know. Was the judge who ruled on the cell tower in an ES or was it done in a public forum? If it was done in a public court, why is the City and Council requesting an ES? The Planning Board is identified as defendants. If they, individually or collectively, were discussed in ES they should have been involved.

We should be impressed that our PB has taken a stand. They believe in their recommendations. They parsed out the settlement agreement and identified their concerns. They have not shied away from speaking openly. They should be commended for their thoughtful service.

No doubt this is a conflict for the Council, City and the Planning Board. But without conflict nothing changes. Kumbaya works for a while. But if everyone agrees all the time progress is limited. Unless there is an obvious need for confidentiality I plan to vote “no” to convening an ES.

Let the light in. Leave the muzzles off by having a public meeting. On this I think the Planning Board would approve.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Jan 20, 2021 22:15

Hmmmm. I thought I posted something to the effect of muzzles being a good idea? Did someone 'muzzle' my comment?

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