Youth Services Committee Member
Cheshire Democratic Town Committee Vice Chairperson
Chief Advocate, Bike Cheshire
On Tuesday (June 11), the Town Council is holding a public hearing to review a proposal to collapse the Human Services and Youth Services Committees into one.
These two volunteer committees, as well as several others, suffer from a lack of consistent attendance and this has been the case for at least the past decade. I’ve been on the Youth Services Committee for more than a year and we’ve had maybe four meetings with a quorum (i.e. a meeting with the minimum number of voting members present.) We’re supposed to meet monthly. It’s impossible to sustain an agenda with so few meetings.
Why is this a problem? Why care?
If our volunteer committees can’t have a quorum, they can’t pursue an agenda or provide assistance to the town departments and constituencies they’re mandated to serve. In my work with Bike Cheshire, one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about our town is that we have a lot of very talented and caring people here. People with tremendous knowledge and gifts and many are eager to share their knowledge and gifts, if given the chance.
This begs the question. Over the past decade, how many ideas and opportunities have been left aside due to our less than inclusive and non-functioning volunteer committees?
The proposal to collapse the two committees is actually a good faith effort by the town to try and improve the chances of achieving quorums. But shrinking our way to success isn’t going to work.
The Human Services Committee is primarily intended to serve our seniors. While the Youth Services Committee is intended to serve the needs of our junior high and high schoolers. By collapsing these two committees into one we’ll be watering down the potential agenda for both constituencies.
As a parent of four kids (ages 10 to 15) I know our youth are facing a whole host of pressures and issues like never before. Michelle Piccerillo and her team at Youth Services do an incredible job and provide important programming, counseling and support for our kids. Cheshire is leading the pack in these areas. Yet judging by our heightened concerns about bullying in our schools, we’ve needed a functioning Youth Services Committee for many years and one that focuses solely on youth issues, now more than ever.
In my opinion collapsing the two committees is akin to throwing in the towel, precisely at a time when we need more public participation, not less. We need to open up our process and invite our gifted and knowledgeable citizens to participate in improving Cheshire.
So I propose a simple solution.
Let’s have three alternates for each volunteer committee (just as we have for Planning & Zoning); the majority party gets two and the minority party gets one. After all, Planning & Zoning has rarely, if ever, failed to have a quorum. The majority party, since it’s their responsibility to fill most of the positions on our volunteer committees, should also make it more widely known that unaffiliated voters can and should serve on our volunteer committees. Many of our volunteer committees are broken and have been for years. It’s time to fix the problem.
We’re all waiting for the next school facilities master plan or the next development proposal for the north end or the brew pub or the return of a village cinema but often it’s these smaller actions (like enabling our volunteer committees to do their jobs) that have a greater and lasting impact.
If you agree with this simple proposal and/or you think Youth Services and Human Services should remain separate committees, I urge you to come to the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, June 11 and be heard.