To the Editor:
The NAACP New Britain Branch would like to lend our support for the proposed resolution under consideration by the Common Council to bring back remote public speaking in Council public hearings and in Council public participation sessions. The NAACP applauds the bi-partisan, unanimous support that Council members on the Administration, Finance and Law Committee showed, as they joined together in supporting this important advance for public access and participation.
Having the option for the public to call into public hearings and public participation sessions in order to offer their perspectives on matters in front of the Council has proven to be a vital part of maintaining the resilience of our democratic institutions during the difficult days of the pandemic. Bringing back that option for public participation is still important for those reasons.
But, in so many areas of life, changes made out of the necessity of the moment have actually proved to bring greater advantages than the practices before the pandemic. Online and telephonic access to public meetings is certainly one of those areas, providing greater access to public meetings and more vigorous, inclusive and participatory public discussion than possible when the only option was sitting in a singular meeting room. While we may have gone to online and public meetings as a necessity, these should be kept as an option for the public, because it is just a good idea and better for democracy. At the very least, public speaking in hearings and public participation sessions should be kept as an option available for members of the public.
Another item that the NAACP would note that was not in the original resolution would be expanding the same rules for public access to the proceedings of the Charter Revision Commission and the Redistricting Committee. The Branch would offer that the city should work toward extending online and telephone public viewing and access for all city boards and commissions, but charter revision and redistricting are too important to not have the same public transparency and access as the Common Council will, after the Council, as it should, approves the resolution before it now.
NAACP Branch No. 2006