Showing posts with label testify. Show all posts
Showing posts with label testify. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Roy & Hellen testify on H.2108 to enable Town of Franklin to publish legal notices by alternative means to save money

On Tuesday, June 20, State Rep Jeff Roy and Town Administrator Jamie Hellen testified on a local home rule petition to save the Town of Franklin approx. $40-50K per year by not sending legal notices to the newspaper. Legal notices are posted to the Town website, residents (and others) can subscribe to receive them. Newspapers have been declining in publication. The savings will not significant are substantial.

The testimony submitted by Rep Roy

"Representative Carol A. Fiola, Chair
Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government Room 236
Boston, MA 01233

Senator Jacob R. Oliveira, Chair
Chair Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government Room 416-B
Boston, MA 01233

RE: H. 2108, “An Act authorizing the city known as the town of Franklin to utilize alternative methods for notice of public hearings”.

Dear Chair Fiola and Chair Oliveira:

I respectively request that H. 2108 - “An Act authorizing the city known as the town of Franklin to utilize alternative methods for notice of public hearings” be released favorably from committee.

The proposed unanimous home rule petition would authorize Franklin to post statutorily required legal notices through means other than print newspaper. The language is modeled after Chapter 369 of the Acts of 2022 which authorized the town of Acton to use similar alternative methods of notice for public hearings.

Franklin is well known for its robust community engagement. Citizens are active and regularly consume many forms of media connected to the current events of the town. For instance, the town has over 5,000 email subscribers, multiple sources of social media, cable access through Franklin TV, civic news services such as Franklin Matters and the Franklin Observer as well as the town’s official website. In addition, notices would be posted by the Town Clerk on the bulletin board as well and over time would be expanded to other bulletin boards in heavily frequented areas around town. Since 2017 the town has spent $200,000 publishing meeting notices in print newspapers despite fewer and fewer people reading or subscribing to local print media. With so many readily available alternatives a savings of $40,000-50,000 a year would mean a great deal to the town budget.

As State Representative for Franklin, I can attest to the commitment of Town’s officials to ensuring that town business is conducted in an upfront and transparent way. Franklin has been recognized by the Massachusetts Municipal Association for its transparent approach to public meeting accessibility, especially during the pandemic. The town takes its responsibility to promote civic engagement very seriously and is always looking for new and better ways to inform its citizenry. I have no doubt that as technology continues to expand, Franklin will continue to innovate and expand their notice capabilities. For these reasons, I believe the request to eliminate one small facet of the notice requirement can be accommodated without negative impact.

Thus, I urge your favorable action on H. 2108 and thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns."

Full text in PDF form ->

Testimony submitted by Town Administrator Jamie Hellen

Re: Testimony on House 2108, An Act authorizing the city known as the town of Franklin to utilize alternative methods for notice of public hearings

Dear Chair Fiola and Chair Oliveiro:

On behalf of the Franklin Town Council, I am submitting testimony on behalf of the House 2108, An Act authorizing the city known as the town of Franklin to utilize alternative methods for notice of public hearings. I request a favorable report from the Joint Committee and passage of this home rule legislation. The legislation approved and submitted by the Franklin Town Council was modeled after Chapter 369 of the Acts of 2022.

In a unanimous decision, 9-0, the Franklin Town Council petitions the General Court with this home rule legislation to allow the Town to post statutory required legal advertisements through means other than through a print newspaper. As you know, cities and towns are required by statute to file (certain) public hearing and legal notices via a print newspaper publication of general circulation. A few examples of required hearing notifications in print newspapers include conservation, certain financial or property hearings, certain licensing hearings, land use permitting, and tree hearings, among many more. As technology and accessibility to government officials has evolved, advanced, and expanded significantly, the Town believes we can communicate in greater effectiveness to our citizens through electronic and in-person methods, while saving taxpayers significant resources each year from publishing legal advertisements in print newspapers.

Since 2017, the Town of Franklin has cumulatively spent over $200,000 to publish legal ads in print newspapers. That total would have been higher if not due to the two COVID years of 2020 and 2021. The Town is not convinced it’s seeing a significant return on that financial investment with greater attendance, participation or awareness of public hearings through print newspapers. It’s an exceptionally rare situation to have a citizen arrive at any public meeting and suggest they saw the public notification in the print newspaper. Occasionally, this may be the case, and I fully understand this will affect a small portion of the citizens in town. But learning about public hearings via a print newspaper is far from the norm and further fades each year.

The overwhelming number of citizens, including most senior citizens, receive their town news, legal notifications and updates from the Town’s various electronic and in-person sources. The Town has over 5,000 subscribers to various email lists on how citizens stay in touch with local news, hearings, meetings, announcements and public hearing notifications. That content is also published on town authorized social media channels. Specifically for legal public hearing advertisements, the town has nearly 855 subscribers on the “Legal Ads” email subscription list and is a free service for everyone.

Notifications of hearings can also be found on local cable access, the town website, and are often published by local, third party civic news sources in Franklin Matters and the Franklin Observer.

If this legislation is approved, the Town would use this email subscription service as the predominant legal notification method for all state required public hearing notifications. We would facilitate a policy for the entire organization. The Town would also dedicate a bulletin board in the Town Clerk’s Office to post hearing notices. As time evolves, I could even envision numerous posting areas of high visibility or foot traffic. And of course the notices would all be posted on the town website as we currently do.

Furthermore, the Town would also work closely with our local cable access station, Franklin TV, to post legal ads throughout regular programming. They reserve a fair amount of air space for local town news, hearings, meeting notices and also have an archive of all town meetings on YouTube called “Franklin Town Hall TV.” The methods the town has used to inform citizens of hearings have been effective and we would like to continue them without having the additional cost or responsibility to post those same notices in a print newspaper of general circulation. In tightening budget times, saving $40-$50,000 a year on legal ads would be beneficial to the town budget to either reinvest in other civic engagement projects, or in other areas in need of investment.

Franklin is well respected for its transparent publication of information, meetings, hearings, outreach, and communication. The Town has been recognized by the MMA and many other communities for our comprehensive approach to transparency and public meeting accessibility, notably during the pandemic, by meeting citizens where they are consuming content rather than asking them to find antiquated locations for notifications. I rarely hear complaints about the public not knowing about an issue, meeting or a hearing. As Representative Roy and Senator Rausch know well, citizens in Franklin are extremely well informed of when critical meetings, hearings or events are being held in the community.

At the end of the day, with print newspapers in a slow decline and public attention turning into purely electronic and in person forms of communication, it may not be that far off in the future when many other municipalities will be looking for a similar exemption from being required to post certain legal ads in a local print newspaper. Similar to Chapter 369 of the Acts of 2022, many communities will be facing a reality that there is no print newspaper option to suffice this legal requirement, or other communities will simply this legal requirement not the most cost effective use of public spending. This legislation could serve as an additional test case of how to develop better policy on this future trend.

On behalf of the Town Council, I greatly appreciate the time of the Joint Committee to hear this bill. We thank you for your attention to this legislation and urge a favorable report from the committee. I am happy to discuss the legislation with any member of the committee or the legislative committee staff.

Full text in PDF form -> 

The H.2108 legislation text can be found ->

Link to the hearing testimony -> Rep Roy and Hellen appear approximately 10 minutes into the hearing video

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

In the News: Trump administration blocked by ruling; US House calls Postmaster General to testify

 From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin: 

"A federal judge blocked the Trump administration on Monday from enforcing a new regulation that would roll back health care protections for transgender people.

Finalized days after the Supreme Court barred sex discrimination against LGBT individuals on the job, the regulation from the federal Department of Health and Human Services was to have taken effect Tuesday.

Monday’s preliminary injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn bars the administration from enforcing the regulation until the case can be heard in court and decided. Block indicated he thought the Trump administration’s so-called transgender rule is invalid in light of the Supreme Court ruling in June on a case involving similar issues in the context of job discrimination.

“When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision’s impact,” Block wrote in his order, suggesting the agency may want to reconsider. “Since HHS has been unwilling to take that path voluntarily, the court now imposes it.”

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

"Facing a public backlash over mail disruptions, the Trump administration scrambled to respond Monday as the House prepared an emergency vote to halt delivery delays and service changes that Democrats warned could imperil the November election.

The Postal Service said it has stopped removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines amid an outcry from lawmakers. President Donald Trump flatly denied he was asking for the mail to be delayed even as he leveled fresh criticism on universal ballots and mail-in voting.

“Wouldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters Monday at the White House. “I have encouraged everybody: Speed up the mail, not slow the mail.”

Embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify next Monday before Congress, along with the chairman of the Postal Service board of governors."

 Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

US House calls Postmaster General to testify
US House calls Postmaster General to testify