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    HomePoliticsThe Recorder - Group to host citizens forum to discuss Greenfield politics

    The Recorder – Group to host citizens forum to discuss Greenfield politics

    Published: 4/4/2022 3:03:52 PM

    Modified: 4/4/2022 3:03:14 PM

    GREENFIELD — With an upcoming community forum series, a group of residents is hoping to offer a space to “foster respectful discussions” on a wide range of issues relating to local public policy and civic engagement.

    “The goal is to keep the citizens informed of what’s going on in the community, and to talk about what we want to do,” said resident David Lewis, who is among the organizers for the event series, launching on April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Greenfield Elks Lodge at 3 Church St.

    The Greenfield Citizens Forum is an “unincorporated, nonpartisan citizens group,” according to a press release from the organizers.

    Among the panelists at the first forum — which will cover topics ranging from city charter Section 7-7, pertaining to the citizens initiative process; the debate over in-person, hybrid and remote meeting formats; and ideas on how to increase voter turnout — are residents Al Norman, Mike Corona and Donna Festinger.

    “I think the forum is designed to be a place where citizens can come and talk freely about the concerns they have and the issues they’re interested in without it being sponsored by the government Legislature, the City Council,” said Norman, emphasizing the importance of maintaining civil and respectful discourse — something he feels has been lost, especially with the growth of social media as a platform for political debate.

    Norman is especially interested to hear from residents about the citizens initiative petition process, through which new issues or ideas can be proposed to the City Council or the School Committee, or brought to a ballot if rejected by the respective body.

    The Appointments and Ordinances Committee has recommended no changes to the citizens initiative petition process, which will next come before City Council.

    “I’m hoping in April … the council will consider some compromise to doing nothing,” Norman said.

    He added that the conversation between the public and members of City Council is “not great these days.”

    “What I plan to talk about at the Elks Club is ways we might be able to improve the citizen’s engagement in government,” he said. “That would include … finding ways for citizens to have conversations with their elected officials, other than the public comment period.”

    He noted that with the public comment period allotted during meetings, residents only have three minutes to speak, with no opportunity for councilors to respond.

    “There’s no back and forth,” Norman said. “There’s no opportunity to have a dialogue.”

    Councilors and other city officials are encouraged to attend the forums, Norman said. To make an impact, he said, a dialogue needs to be had.

    “I think it would be good for councilors to be there,” Norman said. “I think it would be good for councilors to know their citizens want to hear from them. … Councilors are citizens with a special purpose. They’re not different than citizens, but they have a special purpose.”

    Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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