STAMFORD, Conn. — The Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters. Email them to Stamford@DailyVoice.com.
To the Editor:
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' 1933 quote "Sunlight is the best disinfectant" has been used since it first appeared as shorthand to promote and defend transparency in governmental affairs. It seems obvious to most that fair and effective government relies on public participation to thrive, and meaningful public participation in democratic institutions requires the open and transparent operation of those democratic institutions. Yet, sometimes public officials shy away from the sunlight of public openness, perhaps at times fearing criticism or controversy, or mundane delays in the people's business, and seek to transact city business out of view of the prying public eye.
The Advocate (June 26) has recently covered the issue of certain closed meetings that are regularly convened by a small group of Board of Representative members. By their own admission, these few BOR members meet in private, often with the mayor present, and often to the consternation of the public and other duly elected representatives who are not invited. Critics have objected to the public being shut out of these meetings, and at least two complaints have been lodged with the Freedom of Information Commission in Hartford regarding these closed meetings.
It is uncertain if the FOIC will ultimately rule that these meetings are covered by FOIA and thus need to be noticed and be open to the public. Those defending the continuation of the closed meetings claim that nothing of substance transpires in these meetings -- they merely regard timing, agenda, and other procedural matters, and thus FOIA does not apply and the public need not attend. Yet this claim strains credulity and, in fact, there exist several exhibits filed with the FOIC that seem to suggest very important city business is indeed discussed in these closed meetings, and The Advocate has published material countering that claim. To me it also seems a curious defense to say in effect: "nothing of any import happens in these meetings, therefore the public should be shut out of them." Common sense would seem to dictate the opposite.
I have no problem with the mayor meeting with any subset of city representatives, and I suspect that lawyers could quibble for years over the technicalities of whether these meetings are or are not covered by FOIA. However, I believe, like any other municipal governmental meeting, these meetings should be noticed and open to the public, and I believe the public should be invited to participate in their government at every opportunity. I would not need to wait for any ruling from the FOIC to let the public in, nor would I spend a nickel of taxpayer money defending the administration's ability to shut out the public out.
As mayor, my door will always be open to you, the citizens of Stamford, as well as to the media. Public access, input, and transparency will be paramount. And since it is my belief that there are few more important issues facing our fair city at this time than the apparent challenges to open and transparent municipal government, I encourage all other mayoral candidates to make the same pledge, and I hope that the voters will hold us all accountable.
Candidate For Mayor of Stamford Connecticut.
189 Blackwood Lane
Stamford CT 06903
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