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April 8, 2013

Letter: City must clarify hearing petition process

To the editor:

I would like to respond to Amanda Kesterson’s recent letter to the editor (”Let security hearing spark more input,” the Times, Monday, April 1).

I believe it is in part a response to the following comment I made at the recent hearing concerning her proposal to have an armed guard at each of our schools:

“I would like to begin by expressing my disappointment with the school committee for holding this hearing. The threshold of gathering 250 signatures in a petition is part of the democratic process, to make sure we all have an equal voice. Foregoing that process out of fear or influence creates an inequity of our voices.”

I have since learned that the threshold is only 150 signatures. I apologize for the error in my statement.

I believe it is important to follow due process, as laid out in our city’s charter. Joe Orlando kindly informed me that the charter is silent on electronic signatures. That being the case, our city officials need to clarify how it handles electronic signatures.

There are steps to make electronic signatures legal and binding. The standard to which we hold such petitions should be clarified before any are accepted. I ask that our officials please address these issues soon.

Do I want to stifle conversation? No. There are several alternative steps the School Committee could have taken. They could have asked Ms. Kesterson to return with a paper petition before granting her a hearing.

By the time of the hearing, she had collected more than enough signatures. Given Ms. Kesterson’s tenacity I am all but certain the delay would have only been a week or two, but that delay would have lent the process credibility. Or the School Committee could have decided to hold a hearing not based on her proposal, but on safety and security in the schools in a broader sense. In either instance the safety of our children would have been discussed.

Why does this matter? It matters because process matters.

If Ms. Kesterson were a newcomer to town, had she no connections, were her name not known, would the school committee have granted her a hearing without a proper petition? I think not.

This is the other side of democracy: that we all have the same access to it.

AMANDA COOK

Knowlton Square, Gloucester

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