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.