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On Transparency in Government

Transparency in government can increase civic virtue.

When, during the last election cycle, the issue of televised village board meetings was raised, it elicted  a favorable response from both Residents First and Patchogue 2012.   At the Patchogue village board meeting of Oct 9, community activist John Bogack requested that this issue be revisited.  The Mayor's response that televised  board meeting are not worth the cost reveals how little this administration values transparency and public access to village  government.

 

Transparency in village government can accomplish many positive goals. Residents become more informed regarding issues and more competent in engaging with and participating in the processes which have such significant impact on their lives. It also empowers them to hold their elected officials accountable for their decisions and activities. Cynicism and apathy may decrease while voter turn out may increase.

 

Though not often recognized, televised board meetings can provide an educational experience for students  A social studies homework assignment which requires monitoring of board meetings can be a valuable civic lesson which may spark a lifelong interest in public service.  Who knows?  It might even provide the pool from which future board members are elected.

 

Failure to televise board meetings deprives seniors, single parents, the disabled and others from full civic participation.  Inclement weather, inconvenient work schedules and a host of other obstacles may preclude  in person attendance. 

 

Relying on foils ( Freedom of Information Act ) to achieve the objectives garnered  by public access is ineffective and burdensome for residents already overtaxed with work and family responsibilities.  A resident must go to village hall, at a time when it is open, complete the foil request and then wait up to ten days before it becomes available.  Generally there is a per page fee  attached.

 

The minutes provided on the village website are incomplete as they no longer document the comments made by residents during the Public Be Heard portion of the meeting.  This deprives residents of the opportunity to learn of fellow residents who share their concerns and interests.  It serves to isolate residents and discourage common cause and the formation of civic groups. ( Dare I suggest that, perhaps this has been the motive for discontinuing the practice of including resident comments? )

 

The revitalization of Main St needs to be accompanied by a revitalization of the political process and civic life in Patchogue. Indeed, it is just Main Street's revitalization, with its' many consequences, positive and negative, which makes crucial a more informed public, discussion and debate and  increased public accessibility to the administration of our village government. Televised board meetings can play a significant part in service of this goal.

 

 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Kennedy October 14, 2012 at 02:12 AM
(continued from above) Yet while I'm placing this burden on our elected the officials, and rightfully so, that is still only part of the problem. Apathy by the public at large is a symptom to this problem as well. As you stated Josephine, when Mr. Bogack brought up the issue of televised meetings, his response was "it's not worth the cost." While we are certainly entitled a description of what these costs actually are, the Mayor is not off base questioning the worth of televised meeting. When only a handful of residents are normally present at most Village Board meetings, even when topics of urgent and important concern are discussed, it is only natural the elected official will take away a sense that the public is mostly content and supportive, therefore no need to go beyond. We, as residents, have a responsibility too. As someone who has spent a large part of my life studying and observing history and government, one thing I have learned is the success of this unique democratic-republic we all live in greatly depends on participation of its citizens. Lack of it will lead to representation that is self-serving, instead of serving the greater public good. So, while televised village board meetings may, on the surface, seem trivial, it is, to me, a common sense, "no brainer" idea that deserves at least an attempt to implement. Count me in, Josephine, on any activity that would accomplish this goal, and more transparency from Village Hall
Jo Miller October 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Dave, thank you for your comments which have made the case for televised board hearings far better than I have. Your point that sparse attendance at village board meetings signals disinterest to village officials is very well taken. However, as I pointed out, there are many reasons for this; indifference is not necessarily one of them. Mayor Pontieri estimated the cost at $20,000. Who provided this information? How was it arrived at? What is the breakdown? Is this a one time cost? Is there an ongoing cost. Are there other avenues to explore, e.g. use of volunteers, grants, equipment sharing etc.? Could any of the nearby colleges be enlisted in a mutually beneficial project for students enrolled in studies which pertain to communication and the technology of communication? Mayor Pontieri has been energetic, determined and relentless in his pursuit of goals which he believes to be beneficial to the village. Rightfully so. Why not the same determination to offer the residents an opportunity to be more informed and engaged in village government?
John Bogack October 14, 2012 at 06:45 PM
The Mayor is a mystery. The idea of televised meeting of the Patchogue Village Board of Trustees has no real downside for the public. The quoted expense of 20000 as Jo Miller accurately reports was never justified by the Mayor and sounds grossly inflated to me. Two thousand is the more probable annual cost. If that sum is beyond the reach of the village budget are we going to soon see Village Clerk Patti Seal on the front steps of village hall selling baked goods to raise funds for our impoverished village? What I find so ironic about the Mayor's opposition to this idea is that the biggest winners, next to the public, will probably be the Mayor and the Trustees who will have the majority of the TV time devoted to their actions. And I don't see what needs to be hidden there. Trustee meetings are a wealth of information about what is going in Patchogue Village. More goes on at those meetings than ever gets reported by both the Patch and the LI Advance which is why I have been advocating that the public be allowed to see the many good things that happen but never get the attention they deserve. Plus how could this idea be anything but a plus for stimulating public interest in our village government? Over the past year, and in years to come, great debates have occured about the future path of our village. They should have been seen, those to come should be seen by all not just a few. This is a good cause whose fate is now in the hands of the public.
David Kennedy October 14, 2012 at 11:49 PM
I agree that the next step is to have the village provide a cost analysis of what the cost of producing Village Board Broadcasts are...when the Mayor says "its not worth the cost," is he saying that because he actually pursued the concept, reviewed the numbers and decided it was to high or is he really saying "expending any funds for this idea is a waste of taxpayer funds." Regardless, lets se the numbers, the public is owed at least that much information.
David Kennedy October 15, 2012 at 12:04 AM
John, you make a very perceptive point regarding who "benefits" from more public access...both the public and the government really do...I may be dating myself hear, but does anyone remember the old Sy Syms Mens Clothing commercials?...the tag line remains valued axiom..,"an educated consumer is our best customer." For the Village it should be " an educator voter is our best resident." Providing televised meetings puts the onus on the resident to be informed...there is no excuse why the Village wouldn't at least seriously pursue the concept.
Geezer October 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Bayport-Blue Point board of education meeetings are filmed and added to a website and the cost is $0000000.00. Are we that stupid to just sit back and take that horsespit?
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 03:34 PM
There are a lot of gullible people on here willing to take the Mayor's horsespit. He's got his pollyanna cheerleaders that have their blinders on.... He doesn't want meetings televised and never has. "No arguing" that we are better off than we were 6-8 years ago? Other than the restaurants which are a plus...I don't call overdevelopment, empty overpriced condos, roads and neighborhoods in disrepair, increased crime and public urination, stealing from village hall, fiscal irresponsibility and embarrasing audits, favors for the mayor's goons, pay for play contracts, no parking and a Tritec takeover of the entire Village "better off"...greed and corruption have taken over this place and even if there are televised meetings they won't capture 90% of the "dirty deals" made at Village Hall. Crooks are not transparent in their dealings because if they were they'd go to jail.
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 05:07 PM
The only person who sees this topic as "trivial" is your buddy Pontieri. Let me ask you something. What happened to the CItizens Advisory Council? The Policy Committee? Reducing benefits........televising meetings.......and all the other BS promises this guy made during his election? Is he still helping himself to gas?
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 05:13 PM
The founding fathers must be rolling in their graves over Pontieri....his style of governing is not what they intended....that's for darn sure.
David Kennedy October 15, 2012 at 05:38 PM
The Citizen's Advisory Committee is a proposal made by NU Village Civic, while during the election all the candidates who ran did give lukewarm support for the idea...no candidate ever made a commitment during the campaign to implement the committee...and certainly no elected official on the board, including the Mayor, has ever attempted to create such a committee. As for policy review, this is a concept first propsed by Village Attorney Egan that since has been discussed with little action so far, there was a published public notice that requested resumes from the public for this...I asked the mayor about this at the last Village Board meeting (imagine the concept of actually asking for answers at a public forum...you should give it a try josesh) and the Mayor stated he only recieved a couple of resumes and will be making appointments to this committee soon. While there has been a general support for televised meetings by the Village Board before the election, it seems now they are not interested...and why I will work with Josephine and John to change that. I certainly would like to know why none of the elected officials, trustees included, fail to support these concepts...while The Mayor is the lead official, I do believe the other officials still have a mind of their own and a voice to express it. Regardless, I remain proactive in making changes, making false and inaccurate accusations adds nothing to the debate.
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 06:55 PM
For those of us who work at night......televised meetings would be a way for us to keep tabs on what the Mayor is up to....mr. K what false and inaccurate statements are you referring to? I only state what I know and believe to be true. The mayor was quoted as saying the Policy Committe was his wife's idea not Attorney Egan's. I wonder who he will appoint. Ha!
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Take a look at the Village's facebook page. It is shameless, nauseating self promoting propaganda....any real questions or complaints are deleted by the page's cheerleading "volunteers" who like to "keep it positive" with puppies and flowers and parades...and discourage any real discourse about the issues...you have to physically attend a board meeting to do that....and then wait 2-3 hours to get up and speak.
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I'm actually glad I work at night. Attending those meetings is too maddening. I would DVR it and watch it on TV though for some laughs.
John Bogack October 15, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I stongly agree with Dave Kennedy: our village is run by a Board of elected trustees. When the Mayor spoke in opposition to the idea of televised meetings not a single trustee expressed an opinion. I find this be yet another mystery of our village government. Centuries ago the American revolution overthrew the notion that the American people are to be ruled by any single person. Instead we are ruled by a representative government which means that power is entrusted by the people into the hands of a group of elected officials who then meet, discuss, and vote for the public good. I did not see such a process occur last Monday. When Cablevision renewed their contract with Patchogue Village their representative appeared at a Board meeting and reminded the Board, not just the Mayor, that public access was free of cost to the village and that it's proceedings could be then be viewed on Channel 18 just like meetings of the Brookhaven Town Council are seen. It is true there will be some cost to buy a camera, and absent volunteer labor, a technician of some sort would have to paid for about ten hours a month to film and to do some minor editing (i.e. basic identification of the event). In return the public gets to see the actual workings of the village government. I think the job done over all is good so again I am amazed that this idea is not endorsed and supported by the Mayor. For the record there is a citizens group working to see this through: it's long overdue.
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Have they even looked into GovTV or one of those outfits? Maybe you could suggest the entire board votes on this proposal so each trustee's opinion is put on public record and not swallowed up by Papa Pontieri's BS rhetoric about cost. As far as I can see the trustees don't really have individual opinions on most issues but maybe this is an exception.
Archie Bunker October 15, 2012 at 07:53 PM
give up and move!
David Kennedy October 15, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Joseph....you stated the Mayor made a campaign promise to insitute a citizen's advisory committee...inaccurate...never happened You also made statements: "favors for the mayor's goons, pay for play contracts." and also "greed and corruption have taken over this place" I do not think there is any truth to any of those statements...can you provide some proof? And "Tritec has taken over the whole Village" ... Really? A bit of an overexaggeration, no? These are just today's examples...
NuVillage Civic Association of Patchogue October 15, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Jo, John and David, Count Laureen on board with the pursuit of televised board meetings. Nu Village will begin spreading the word. Is there a point of contact you can offer?
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Lureen what ever happened to the Citizens Advisory committee? Is NU VILLAGE still forming that committee? I don't agree with the NU VILLAGE apartments but the committee is a good idea.
Joseph Adriano October 15, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Speaking of transparency....what's the latest on Dublin Deck or that Fatfish project? Anyone hear anything? Maybe the zoning and planning boards should be televised too...
John Bogack October 15, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Joe, you are starting to get out of control. Televised meeting of both the Planning Board and the Zoning Board? Now you really are becoming a radical. Maybe if the resources are there because it's a great idea and the Community Development Agency too and the Architectural Review Board should also be included on that list. But I think first things first: the Board. Laureen: thanks for the support, no point of contact yet but one will be coming. Remember this is only day 7 of the citizen's campaign for public access. We have a long way to go and one thing to be done is to have some presence where people can join the cause. But it's coming. Joe again and Geezer: some good ideas about alternative solutions to get the Board on TV and I am going to add both of them to my list of things to do. This campaign has a lot to do. The Mayor is owed a vote of thanks by admitting he was no friend of this cause and by doing so he freed the public to find solutions on their own. Now with that responsibility comes the obligation to do the work needed to make this idea real. Chris K: yes people can vote with their feet and move if they are unhappy. I would like to think though that vast sections of the village are not going to have to move because they are oppressed by the issues that Joe Adirano identified to which I would add noise as well. The revitalization of the village must include everyone and if that is not the case yet we need to find ways to make it so without evicting people.
John Bogack October 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Joe: Dublin Deck tonight owners present their preliminary site plan to the Planning Board for their input. If no adjourments then there will be a public hearing next week, Tuesday, when the owners formally begin the approval process. The public will have its first chance to comment on their site plan at that meeting. Fat Fish: Zoning Board approval eliminated as the owners have redrawn the dimensions of the building and now it fits within legal standards. Their site plan will now go to the Planning Board, it is thought, sometime next month. No details yet on what changes have been made since the owners last presented a plan to the Zoning Board for a very tall building, now shortened rumor has it. And your right it would be wonderful if these meeting got some TV play and the attention they deserve.
Joseph Adriano October 16, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Hey thanks John. What happened last night? Please update us about the river happenings.... Hey Lureen....what ever happened to the CItizens Advisory Board your NU group is forming? Is this group going to help work on televising the meetings? Are you forming the group with or without the support of Papa Pontieri? The Policy committee will be a real joke if Papa does the appointing himself. Free gas and meals and golf for everyone...,
John Bogack October 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM
They came and went. Dublin Deck made a brief presentation and their attorney said that they would have to make further adjustments to the site plan and return in November. Fat Fish has now lowered its roof line to 45 feet bringing it within code and that too looks to be heard at the Planning Board in November. It looks like a case of hurry up and wait in both cases but slowly both proposals are heading to the Planning Board. For both there will be parking and traffic issues, there are concerns that the clubhouse at Fat Fish not be turned into another tikki bar with amplified music. For the Dublin Deck continuing concerns about noise, and occupancy, lighting to name a few of the issues relating to that site plan. It's strikes me as too ambitious for now to include these boards on the televised meetings list but they would be good candidates because there is no doubt that both these applications will affect hundreds of nearby residents before all is said and done. It would be good if a public hearing was a true one, truly visible to the entire public of the village.
Joseph Adriano October 16, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Thanks John...looks like a case of "delay, delay, delay...and hope the public loses interest so we can shove it right through without much notice." Typical Pontieri-style government. What the cameras won't capture are the "private meetings" Pontieri has with Sloan or Egan and members of these boards to bully them into submission. Now that would be must see TV.
John Bogack October 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
BREAKING NEWS: PLANNING BOARD REJECTS FURTHER DELAY FOR DUBLIN DECK. JUDGE RULES AGAINST OFF KEY TIKKI BAR Although I reported recently that the Dublin Deck site plan and requested expansion approval was going to be delayed that report was wrong I learned today. Next Tuesday the Planning Board will be holding its first meeting on the Dublin Deck application. The Board would not agree to further delays in deciding this application it seems. In perhaps a related development State Supreme Court Judge Asher has ruled against the owner of the Off Key Tikki bar who had alleged that the Planning and Zoning Boards had acted illegally when denying the site plan for that club two years ago. Judge Asher upheld the judgements of both boards and no doubt that decision will have some application to the request from the owners of the Dublin Deck to expand their club. Once again too bad that these proceeding will not be televised because I am sure that they would be well worth watching as an education into the in's and out's of the current revitalization of the village in real time. Those interested in getting a front seat can do so the old fashioned way in the meantime by showing up at Village Hall next Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. for the first of what is sure to be one of several sessions of public hearings and comments on the Dublin Deck expansion plans.
Alison October 18, 2012 at 03:32 PM
There's no excuse. There would be no cost if someone took an iPhone into the meetings and posted it on YouTube.
Joseph Adriano October 18, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Maybe the Mayor just doesn't want public footage of his fumbling and bumbling to be used against him if he runs for higher office one day.
Alison October 18, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Stop living in the past century!
Joseph Adriano October 18, 2012 at 03:51 PM
He's an old dog...it's hard to teach him new tricks....unless there's "something in it for him" of course...

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