On the heels of a resident-organized forum to discuss Wellesley’s budget and finances, the township itself is looking to host a town hall event April 26. Details of the meeting’s format are still a work in progress.
More than 150 residents attended a forum organized by the Wellesley Township Concerned Citizens group on March 16, however no one from the township staff or council was present. Before the meeting, township clerk Grace Kosch explained provincial regulations and a municipal bylaw regarding council proceedings prevented a majority of the council from attending.
The lack of township representation was a concern for resident Terry Koudys.
“If the mayor is serious about having dialogue with the constituents, [council] could easily change the bylaws that sits on the books today. They’re not bound by that bylaw, but they are hiding behind the bylaw. If they had wanted to have a meeting, and the way that we had set it up wasn’t the correct way to set it up, they could have reached out to us and said ‘we want to have a meeting, too,’” Koudys said in an interview with The Observer on Monday.
Koudys addressed councillors at a March 21 meeting on behalf of the group, noting the delegate format wasn’t the proper way to have meaningful dialogue.
“These open council meetings or meetings of the whole where citizens can come to speak as delegates for a brief five to 10 minutes is not a conversation or a dialogue. My own presentation here tonight, it’s just that, a presentation. I’m not engaged with you, nor are you engaged with me. You’re hearing my words, but there’s truly no meaningful dialogue,” he said at last week’s meeting.
In that committee session, councillors directed staff to bring back a report about hosting a township-led open meeting. However, if the township holds a town hall, Koudys says he’s concerned that an event moderated by someone from the township will not allow for openness.
“I don’t believe that myself or the Wellesley Township Concerned Citizens group want to see a town hall that is moderated by township staff. I think we need to have a township meeting that is moderated by an impartial group. And that would be I think citizens from the township, not from township staff,” he said.
Koudys suggested having two moderators, one from the township and one resident. Another resident, John Rose, one of the leaders of the citizens’ group, said that while the group is looking for these meetings to be more of a township-led initiative, he agreed with Koudys.
“At the end of the day, what we want is the township to take the initiative to actually interact with the constituents, but if they’re coming to that meeting with an agenda… well, that’s not exactly fair either. So there has to be some level of impartiality going into this from both sides,” he said.
“I think where immediately we’re expecting to go with this is just making sure that the township comes forward with a meeting that allows for dialogue and questions and answers, and just more communication and better communication with the constituents,” Rose added.
Asked about the format of the April 26 event and the dialogue process, Kosch provided only a brief response.
“A report to council will be heard at the April 4, 2023 council meeting, proposing a date of April 26, 2023 for a town hall meeting,” she said via email.