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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.

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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