OPINION: The importance of printing meeting minutes

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 10:42 am on Monday, July 29, 2013

Here at The Daily News and The Gazette, our reporters are not able to cover every local government meeting due to the wide area we cover.

That’s why we make it a practice at both newspapers to request and print as many meeting minutes as possible. We obtain copies of meeting minutes first via a friendly request to local officials and then, if that doesn’t work, a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request, which requires the meeting minutes be given to us via state law.

Most local government officials are happy to provide us with meeting minutes when we request them and they continue providing us with those minutes for a long time. Crystal Township is a great example of this and we appreciate Clerk Bob Naumann’s efforts in this endeavor. Another great example is Gary Sweet who kindly provides us with his own recap of Carson City Council meetings and Carson City-Crystal Area Schools board meetings until we are able to get a copy of the official minutes.

Unfortunately, after two or three months, other local officials stop sending us minutes. Whatever the reason may be, this failure to send us minutes leaves us coming up short at The Gazette to provide our readers with helpful information that often can only be found in meeting minutes.

I noticed recently that I hadn’t received minutes from the Bloomer Township Board since its April meeting or from the Hubbardston Village Council since its March meeting. I felt bad that it took me so long to notice, but I rectified the situation immediately. As a result, we are publishing several months’ worth of meeting minutes from both municipalities on Page 2 of this week’s Gazette.

I just wanted to remind everyone of how informative minutes can be and how important it is to publish them for the public on a regular and timely basis.

For example, did you know Bloomer Township is working on creating an ordinance to ban steel wheels on township roads?

Or did you know that the Hubbardston clerk resigned in May, but then changed her mind? Or that a Hubbardston councilwoman resigned in July and a new councilperson was appointed? (I’m waiting on more information about both resignations …)

I’d love to hear thoughts from readers on this topic. Have you ever found an important or interesting nugget of information while perusing through minutes? Or do you think it’s just a waste of space? Please let me know. I’ll be happy to publish any and all responses. Maybe we can get an informative community conversation going about minutes and related topics.

In my opinion, if you can’t attend your local city, township or village meeting, the next best thing to do is read the minutes!

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