To the editor:

When was the comment feature dropped by the Times. And why?

Residents of Gloucester are permitted to attend meetings of some governance bodies, but their free speech is sharply curtailed even in those board and committee meetings that provide a three-minute period for their speech. For the least of reasons, or no reason, they have recently been denied the podium or, at the podium, interrupted and shut down because the body they were addressing, or a member or two on it, took some kind of offense at their position or manner of presenting it. I’m not talking about offensive language, conduct, or personal attack, but simply what the person’s concern was. Mary Lou Tierney’s effort to point out to the council its legislative powers and duties to temporarily put a moratorium on the conduct of the Zoning Board of Appeals functioning while it investigated egregious flouting of its own rules and regulations was the most dramatic of these occasions.

The scrupulously prepared and timed appeal she intended to present is posted on (Mary Lou Tierney, Sept. 24, 2019), as is the video of her silencing (video of City Council hearing, Sept. 24, 2019). In the end, only a portion of her prepared three minutes worth of democratic participation was presented, overwhelmed and drowned out by the fray it took to allow her even that.

Candidate “debates” are carefully scripted and the questions asked of participants screened to include the benign and already shopworn, making sure that none of the burning issues behind the performance are allowed to appear as even a flicker.

You, the press, cover nothing of the local politics that are changing forever the physical and political landscape of the city.

Where are Gloucester residents to go to be heard?

Linda McCarriston


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