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When to talk at Hamburg public meetings: Town supervisor capitulates

The people spoke in Hamburg, and the town supervisor heard them.

And it looks like they will be able to speak when they want to during Town Board meetings.

Supervisor James M. Shaw said he's revising the rules for public comments at board meetings, returning to the practice of allowing residents to comment on each resolution as it comes up during the meeting.

"There's no profiles in courage written here," Shaw said. "I'm a big chicken; I want to make everybody happy."

At Shaw's first meeting as supervisor, he instituted a public expression time near the beginning of a meeting, before the board entertains resolutions, and another at the end of the meeting.

But citizens used to expressing their views on resolutions before board members vote objected.

“We always had this,” resident Robert Reynolds said during the Jan. 8 meeting. “After the Council spoke, the taxpayers had a right to speak on the motion that was before them.”

And they will again.

Richard A. Smith, a former town councilman, highway superintendent and assemblyman, said different boards had different practices in the past.

"We've had it where people were allowed to talk all night long," Smith said. "The meetings went from 7 o'clock until almost midnight most of the time because people were allowed to ramble and talk all they wanted to."

He said the procedures were changed over the years to control the comments.

Shaw said he asked Council members to contact him with their thoughts on the comment period, but he did not hear from them on this issue.

His second meeting as supervisor will be Monday, and he'll be asking the board to adopt new rules of order for conducting meetings. If approved, they will replace the rules of order first adopted March 17, 1958.

"Those rules, they really don't do anything," Shaw said. "So over the last 50-some years, boards have been doing it on an ad hoc basis."

He said his proposed rules of order are adapted from similar documents in Amherst and Tonawanda.

When should taxpayers talk during public meetings? Hamburg's still deciding

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