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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Town Board Meets Tonight

It's that time again. The Town Board of North Greenbush meets tonight for its regular meeting at 7PM with a rather long agenda which you can read here. Once again you can expect that the expensive equipment purchased to tape the meetings for Public Television access will not be working and no one will be worried about making the board meetings open and accessible to town residents through the use of this technology.

For some its actually a relief since so much of what happens at these meetings is an embarrassment to the town. For some Board members, its keeps the public in the dark about their actions which often defy the public interest in place of the special interests. Take their recent vote to appoint a Town Justice with no trial experience who just happened to be the GOP nominee for the post. The three Conservative town board members voting for her all need the GOP endorsement and Wilson Pakula waiver in order to run as Republicans. So their votes were sold to the GOP in a classic Judge for Endorsement exchange.

Tonight's Town Board meeting includes a vote to schedule public hearings on their so called "new and improved" Comprehensive Plan. You know, the one in which town taxpayers shelled out $40 grand or so for a sweetheart no bid contract approved by the town board and the Comprehensive Plan Committee members installed by the new board majority which took control in January 2008.

The public hearings, which were once held in late 2007 as part of the process to complete the first Comprehensive Plan paid for completely by a county grant and competitively bid, must be held again in order to have the Town Board adopt it. In case you didn't know, the new politically connected consultant which won the no bid contract, has apparently finished their redo of the plan, and apparently it is full of changes to the original document that Mark Evers and Ernie Kern managed to prevent passage when they voted against it in a December 2006 Board meeting in which Councilman Alan Michaels, a supporter of the Plan, was absent. The 2-2 tie allowed the new Evers majority to throw out two years of hard work, award a no bid contract to a consultant and change parts of the document in ways in which neither the Comprehensive Plan Committee nor the Town Board has been forthcoming about.

At some point, the new Comprehensive Plan document will be made available to the public for review. But identifying the changes made to the document and why these changes were made, at whose request and benefit and to who's detriment, will be challenging.

To better understand the work of the Comprehensive Plan Committee and the discussions which apparently took place before these substantial changes were made, we direct you to the "Minutes" of the Comprehensive Plan Committee posted on the town web page here.

Their first meeting as a new committee under this town board majority took place on March 18, 2008. The meetings are noticed on the web page as taking place on the third Tuesday of each month at 7PM. That would allow for a total of 16 scheduled meetings and we know at least one was canceled.

Unfortunately, only 6 of their meetings in 2008 are posted on line and two of these postings are nothing more than PDF slide shows used by the consultant at the meetings. They provide no attendance records or account of the dialogue at these meetings. No minutes are posted for 2009, so unless these minutes are available in the town offices for inspection, the public will have no way of knowing why the completed Comprehensive Plan was changed, how many committee members actually participated, how much public input took place, what questions were asked and what questions were not asked? There is also no record of Committee votes or quorums needed for critical votes leading to the approval process without official minutes.

In essence, without a review of the Committee's work as recorded in its "minutes" the public will have no way of knowing why and what was changed in the original document that Mark Evers and Ernie Kern despised, even though they had pledged to support the Comprehensive Plan as a condition for their endorsement by town Democrats in 2005.

So tonight, the Town Board is getting ready to accept public input on a new draft of the Comprehensive Plan and without the official minutes readily available to the public that explain the committee's work and votes, this new majority is apparently ready to pass it in time for the election to take some sort of credit for a process that appears far less than open as it was during the two years which preceded this new Committee's work.

Hey, no wonder they won't fix the camera!

1 comment:

Interested Party said...

I've heard that these Committee meetings are a joke- no solid discussions on anything and loaded with people who know nothing about planning or design, such as the Chairman's relatives. And with Al Spain in charge, you know nothing will get done- hasn't prodcuced any solid legislation in his career and his one chance to shine went down in flames when he voted against the shovel-ready chip fab site off Route 4 ten years ago- no balls.