The new break helps the meetings for a variety of reasons, helping make local government more effective, responsive and transparent.
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“SEVENTH INNING STRETCH”
ADDED TO TOWN COUNCIL MEETINGS
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (JULY 15, 2021) – Everyone needs a break occasionally, even during town meetings, right?
Recently, the Town Council added a “seventh inning stretch” to its sessions, aimed at letting local leaders and the audience a chance to get up, stretch a bit and hit the reset button before finishing out the business at hand.
The idea was proposed by council Vice President Thomas P. Welch III has been well received so far and shows no signs of going anywhere soon.
“When I was first elected and sat for three, four hours in a row without a break, I thought it was ridiculous,” Welch said, laughing. “I’ve never sat in one place that long anywhere in my life.”
Since the “stretch” – borrowing from a longtime baseball tradition – went into effect in May, it’s been embraced.
Welch said besides being healthy to get up and walk around every so often, it allows council members a chance to grab a quick bite to eat or say a brief hello to someone in the audience.
It also gives everyone a chance to cool down after a particularly long or complicated item that requires extra focus and attention.
The “stretch” is allowed under council rules when one member calls for a recess, which is then approved by the other members. It typically lasts about five minutes.
Not only does the “stretch” help physically, but Welch said he believes it can lead to better governing from the council.
“I have no way to prove this, but everyone works better when they’re thinking with a clear head,” Welch said. “If you’re sitting in one spot for hours, no one is functioning at their peak.”
Now during meetings, Welch said he’ll get hand signals from other council members, looking for him to call a break.
“After the break, everyone comes back and is ready to get down to business,” Welch said. “In the end, I think we’re serving the residents better and I think that’s what we’re up there for – to serve.”