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EDITORIAL: What Happened to Public Hearings?

Normally, when there is a proposed change to our town’s bylaws or whenever a controversial Article is placed on Town Meeting warrant, the sponsoring board holds at least one public hearing to solicit public opinion and feedback before submitting such an article on the town meeting warrant for ratification.
     During this pandemic, when public debate at Town Meeting must be severely restricted, such Public Hearings become even more important, serving as a vital substitute for having a full airing of the warrant article at Town Meeting. By not holding such public hearings, the Select Board neglects their duty to uphold democratic debate and discussion at this difficult time.
The Select Board should have held a public hearing for Article I, the Article asserting that Groton rejects the "possibility" of ever having been a sundown town.
     Since there is no objective evidence that Groton ever was such a town, this article should be withdrawn until such evidence is made available for all to examine. If we as a people profess to believe in the truth, why would we accuse our town’s forebears of something that has no proven basis in historical fact? We need to see the evidence before taking a vote based on an unsubstantiated internet rumor.
     If this article passes, it will forever be held up as "fact" that Groton was once a sundown town, despite all signs that this calumny is false. Groton is fortunate to have extensive histories and town records going back to its earliest days. There are authoritative histories by Caleb Butler, Dr. Samuel Green and others. Being familiar with this history, we have seen nothing to suggest that Groton was ever a so-called sundown town or supported such heinous policies.
     Where did this accusation coming from? Why has the Select Board given these troll-like rumors credence by putting this article on the warrant? Why hasn’t the histroical documentation been made publicly available? Why hasn’t there been any opportunity for public input on this inflammatory accusation?
In addition, the Select Board is obligated to hold a Public Hearing on the article to change the dog bylaw. Traditionally, public hearings have always been held whenever a change to the bylaws is proposed. Why was this fundamental check and traditional procedure overlooked?
     We believe that the Select board or Town Meeting voters should move to postpone votes on both these Articles until appropriate, legal Public Hearings have been held. We understand that the Select Board is operating under a declared State of Emergency, but this should not be taken as an opportunity to skirt our standard procedures and traditions fundamental to our town Meeting form of government.
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