To the editor:
The Peabody City Council continues to operate as if its job is not to represent the citizens of Peabody, but rather to support the interest of developers. They made this clear when the city attempted a clandestine rezoning of a residential area at the behest of a developer looking to bring a massive housing project to the JB Thomas neighborhood. They have re-enforced this image by choosing to forge ahead with the peoples’ business via virtual meetings while the rest of us are on lockdown. The council has either forgotten that they represent us, the voters and taxpayers of Peabody or they have become so arrogant they simply think they know what is best for us or worse couldn’t care less what we think so they have seized and embraced the opportunity to conduct our business in a remote virtual backroom most of us cannot access.
Although I am familiar with the Zoom program that the City Council is using to conduct its meetings, many of my neighbors are not or they do not have the computer access or skills necessary to participate. It is unfair and unacceptable that they be shut out of the public process because it is convenient or “comfortable” for the council to do so. Incredulously, Councilor Mark O’Neil proudly defended the council’s decision to operate in a secret forum that shuts most of his constituents out. He stated he is “comfortable with how we are handling the people’s business at this time.” The comfort of elected officials isn’t really a factor in securing peoples’ trust. On the contrary, it usually makes us suspicious and makes elected officials look arrogant and out of touch.
This same councilor, admittedly whether due to his inexperience or incompetence, did not know what business before the council his constituents would consider controversial. If Councilor O’Neil doesn’t know what will be controversial to residents, perhaps instead of championing shutting them out, he should ask them. If he looked around my neighborhood in Ward 4, the sea of blue signs against overdevelopment might serve as a hint of controversy.
It is unacceptable for the council to act like our participation does not matter. This is a deliberate attempt to shut residents out of the decision-making process in our own city so the powers that be can make self-serving decisions unencumbered by democracy. The worst part is that they are exploiting a time of unprecedented public confusion to bamboozle the citizens and taxpayers of Peabody. This is the United States of America, we have rights and we shall be heard.