|These people were unable to see or|
hear what was happening in the meeting.
That troublemaker was me.
I was there once before and had no trouble finding a place to park. But last night was different. There was no room in the parking lot, but I eventually was able to park on the grass at an empty lot next to the fire company. I was far from alone. Many cars were already there.
|80 people were inside the meeting room|
The hallway inside the municipal building was packed with about 20 people. They were unable to get inside the meeting room. More importantly, they were unable to hear the meeting in any way. Resident Sonia Shadid told me another 20 people had previously been sent away.
Though there may have been no room to sit, I figured I could stand alongside a wall and decided to go in. But as I walked in, a big and burly firefighter with 24-inch pythons stopped me at the door. He told me no more than 80 people are allowed inside the room, and that I alone probably count as 10 people, so I wasn't getting in. He weakened a little when I told him I am friends with King Allentown, but he insisted on following the law.
So I insisted on following the law, too. The Sunshine Law. Though largely toothless, it does provide that the "right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decisionmaking of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process." It provides for public participation at meetings, enabling the public to speak on matters before official action is taken. In this case, the public was being deprived of the opportunity to both listen and speak.
From the doorway, I loudly objected. You see, there's a provision in the Sunshine Act that enables any person, even a bottom-feeding blogger, "to raise an objection at any time to a perceived violation of this chapter at any meeting of a board or council."
So I did. I pointed out that the public was being deprived the opportunity to witness government in action and to add their own voice. Shadid told Supervisors that about 15-20 members of the public had actually been turned away.
Solicitor Joe Piperato was receptive to this argument and explained the law to Supervisors. They unanimously voted to postpone its public hearing until they can find a bigger hall.
After it was over, I thanked each Supervisor and Piperato, all of whom were very gracious.
Lehigh Valley truck traffic is expected to double in the next ten years as a result if all these box boxes,and it will be coming down Airport Road. About 100 people were on hand for this meeting, not including the ones sent away. But I saw no one from the daily newspapers.