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OPINION: Keeping meetings open to the public is the way to go

OPINION: Keeping meetings open to the public is the way to go

By Jeffery Kurz

So, it’s easy to criticize, maybe not so easy to praise.

What I have in mind is the tendency to look for something to complain about, which is a very strong tendency. Complaining makes the world go ’round, it can be argued, at least when it comes to articles on an opinion page. Because it seems to me you can only write so much about daffodils. As in, after Wordsworth did it, why bother doing any more? (I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o’er vales and hills, / When all at once I saw a crowd, / A host, of golden daffodils.)

But I’m not here to talk about Wordsworth. I’m here to talk about Chris Palmieri.

OK. It might take a moment to get to him.

First, the criticizing. We have been, on these pages, very rough on Southington and a tendency to hold secret meetings. 

There was an unfortunate incident, a bad thing, late last year when a kid at Southington High said reprehensible, threatening things about black students. It’s worth pointing out that gestures of intolerance and idiocy can have an effect opposite of the presumed intent. Instead of inciting a rally for hate, a disturbing video has prompted a community’s move to get more in tune with itself, to understand the warts and demons that complicate human lives and pursue ways in which we can all be more inclusive.

Southington is a town of great pride, I have noticed over the years, and it shows in the way it has been responding. The community learned that its problem was not limited to a misguided expression in a video. Parents, students and others came to school board meetings with the message that the town has issues when it comes to diversity and acceptance.

So a group was formed by School Superintendent Tim Connellan. The group was made up of diverse people to better discuss the issues of diversity, which absolutely makes sense. What did not make sense was the secrecy. The public is not invited to these meetings. The press, the role of which is to deliver news to the world, is not invited to these meetings. The reasoning was that people would feel better about saying things if what they were saying wasn’t made public, or be more inclined to say things they otherwise would not have said.

But, precisely, what is the point of that?

I sing great in the shower, right?

So now comes Chris Palmieri. He’s the chairman of the Town Council and, perhaps not so incidentally, an assistant principal at DePaolo Middle School. He’s going to appoint a group, too. He wants the group to take a look at how the town goes about its business with an eye toward unequal treatment. The group, to be led by Town Manager Mark Sciota, will be populated for the most part by the heads of town departments. They will make recommendations to the Town Council.

There’s been some criticizing, and accusations of playing politics, which is great because that gets you into a column on an opinion page. I guess some have to worry about some candidate claiming they did more when it comes to counteracting inequality, come Election Day. Or something. Victoria Triano, a Republican town councilor, wanted a group, too.

Everyone can take credit if something gets done.

Palmieri, a Democrat, told the Record-Journal he wanted to keep politics out of it, and has said that while elected officials will be the ones to take action, he didn’t want them as part of the group. That makes sense, and the emphasis on department heads is an effort to hear voices that might not otherwise be heard.

But the best part of it is simple: The group’s meetings will be open to the public. 

That’s enlightened. 

It’s not that hard to say something nice. That’s why Wordsworth and daffodils are in this column, and that’s why Chris Palmieri is, too.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or