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Thursday, March 20, 2014 12:01 am

Letters to the Editor 3/20/14

Sunshine Week, March 16-22 this year, is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.

 

PUBLIC REMARKS CUT OFF

The Open Meetings Act mandates that the City Council allow the public to address it, subject to reasonable rules. Reasonable City Council rules provide that any member of the public who properly registers may address the Council for up to five minutes. The rules clearly state that the mayor may expand but not limit that five minutes.

At the March 4 Council meeting, nine people, including me, registered to speak to the Council about Hunter Dam. At the last minute, Mayor Houston unilaterally decreed that speakers were limited to three minutes. Alderman Cahnman protested twice, telling Mayor Houston he was violating the rule, but Mayor Houston nonetheless persisted in limiting all speakers. I was unable to detail my points about the tremendous costs they were being asked to incur for a project that may never be approved.

Hunter Dam is obviously important to aldermen, who debated it passionately and extensively after the public remarks. Illegally cutting off public debate (perhaps because the mayor knew most of those speaking were opposed to his position) demonstrates the same disregard for law and procedure that has repeatedly landed the city on the wrong end of costly lawsuits. I quietly sat down when commanded by the mayor, rather than embarrass him or me with a diatribe.

What he did was illegal, but I have no desire to sue the city. The public, however, deserves to know that their right to speak to the council on any issue, supposedly protected by the Open Meetings Act and council rules, might be arbitrarily and capriciously curtailed by mayoral decree in the future.

Donald Hanrahan
Mechanicsburg



STICKY SITUATION

CVS’s voluntary decision to stop selling tobacco products is not the first time the drugstore chain has made headlines by choosing compassion over profit.

After PETA informed CVS of how glue traps can painfully ensnare any animal who touches them, including birds, squirrels, snakes, gerbils and even kittens, CVS removed the traps from its shelves. Animals who fall prey to the sticky goo on a trap usually die slowly and miserably from dehydration, starvation, suffocation or self-mutilation.

Wildlife experts agree that glue traps – like all traps – are an ineffective way to control rodents because new rodents simply move in to use available resources. Humane measures like sealing gaps and holes, keeping food and trash in chew-proof containers and trimming shrubbery around buildings are the only effective, long-term ways to keep wildlife outside.

Small animals feel pain and fear just as our beloved cats and dogs. With simple and humane alternatives at our fingertips, there is no reason to resort to cruelty. For more info, visit www.PETA.org.

Jodi Minion, Wildlife Biologist
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Norfolk, Va.



HEALTH CARE SURVEY

People in the Springfield area have an opportunity to weigh in on a timely and important topic: health care. From February through April, health insurers conduct a survey called the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS), which is mailed to select people with health insurance, including those enrolled in an individual plan, an employer-sponsored plan and Medicare. Responding to the survey by mail or phone is one way you can become part of the broader effort to improve our nation’s health care system. Responses are kept anonymous.

Survey responses help the government and insurance providers identify ways to better serve people and improve the care they receive. I encourage people in the Springfield area to respond to the survey, as this one simple step can help improve health care for all of us.

Charles Ettelson, MD, FACS, market medical director
UnitedHealthcare
Springfield

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