Bevilacqua Loses Quest to Relax Meeting Rules

City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua

You can do it in Methuen and in Anchorage, Alaska. But not in Haverhill.

City councilors for the second time rejected a request by their colleague Joseph J. Bevilacqua to change council rules to allow unregulated public comment at meetings.

Bevilacqua objected to the council’s practice of requiring residents who want to address the council to first contact a member and ask to be put on a meeting agenda.

“These are taxpayers who should have the right to come discuss an issue of concern,” Bevilacqua said.

He listed a number of area communities that allow members of the public to attend a meeting and speak to the board, including Amesbury, Andover, Groveland, Lawrence, Methuen, Newburyport and Salisbury. Even the Haverhill School Committee allows public comment without first screening the resident and his concern.

“I believe they are the people we work for, and they have a right to simply walk in the door and talk to us,” Bevilacqua said.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan objected to the discussion, saying the council’s Administration and Finance subcommittee was scheduled to consider the rule change at its upcoming meeting on Jan. 11, but Bevilacqua said he wanted a vote “tonight.”

“You all know the issue, it’s either a yes or a no,” he said.

It was a no. Bevilacqua cast the lone affirmative vote.