Unless you subscribe to the City Clerk’s eMail alert list or have friends “on the inside” of city hall, you would not know that a special, called meeting of Portsmouth City Council is coming up tomorrow at noon. The calendar of meetings for 2018 that council adopted during its final public session of 2017 does not include, nor even hint at, it. Still, a call letter went abroad about 1:30 PM on Friday, December 29, 2017, bearing news of this previously unscheduled gathering. If you were in the midst of your holiday activities, you might well have missed it.
Some vigilant citizens regularly scan the City of Portsmouth home page for notices of pending events. Unfortunately, their diligence notwithstanding, they will not find any mention of the special council meeting thereabouts. The city calendar section of that page, however, does provide notice of a Planning Commission meeting for today, but that is not going to occur until two weeks hence. With the city on extended holidays until tomorrow, the public may well find themselves “out of the loop”.
The reasons given for calling the special meeting are: “adoption of a resolution requesting the City’s [sic] General Assembly delegation to sponsor legislation in the 2018 Session of the General Assembly relating to Tolls Reform [sic] and the appointment to the City Council for the vacancy created by the resignation of Vice Mayor Page D. Cherry.” Also, the letter references possible consideration of a motion for closed session. Neither of the two principal items of business is a meteorite strike (i. e., something that fell from the heavens without warning); both could have been handled in the course of a past or future scheduled meeting. Of course, handling the matters in the routine course of business could have opened the door for greater public engagement, something that our councils, present and past, have largely avoided.
Loyal followers of PCW are aware of our previous recommendation to council regarding the vacancy ensuing from Council Member Cherry’s election as City Treasurer. (For new readers or those who need to refresh their memories, see the open Letter to council of November 29, 2017.) Although we believe the Honorables would do well to heed our advice, we have not placed any bets on that coming to pass. Should the decision play out that way, though, we will likely see snow in Portsmouth shortly thereafter!