Your Right to be Heard
Hanging on the wall behind the dais in the village meeting room is a print of the Norman Rockwell painting called “Freedom of Speech.” It depicts a scene of an average citizen expressing his opinion at the town meeting he’s attending. Surrounding him are other townspeople, listening carefully to what he has to say.
Village government is the most local form of democracy that exists in New York State. It should be a forum that is welcoming and accessible to all residents and members of a small community. Unfortunately, our current Village Board has strayed far from this ideal.
They object to citizens speaking at meetings when they attempt to question the board. They claim that such citizen participation is disruptive and defend their refusal to answer by stating that they are not legally obligated to respond to questions. They have changed what for decades was “Citizen Participation,” at meetings, during which you were able to directly question board members, to “Public Comment” to underscore their hostility to questions from the public, and they no longer include the full content of the comments made by members of the public in the official meeting minutes (while extensively documenting their own statements), again asserting that they have no legal obligation to do so.
Greg Schmidt, Bob Anderson, and Ken Walsh do not consider your statements to be disruptions. We want to know what you think. We welcome your ideas and suggestions to improve village services and administration and we encourage you to bring them to the board’s attention. As opposed to the current board, we do not believe that we alone have all of the answers. Therefore, immediately upon taking office, we will reverse the current practice and restore “Citizen Participation” to meeting agendas.
We believe that when a public hearing is held it should be exactly that. An opportunity for the board to hear, and take account of, what you have to say on the issue at hand and not just a session, as at present, where the board is forced to endure your comments and then feels free to ignore them. We will not schedule a vote on an issue at the same meeting at which the hearing is held, but allow enough time to consider your comments and suggestions before a final decision is made.
To further improve communications between the board and the public, we will schedule periodic Village Forums. Sessions at which you will be invited to meet with the board to informally discuss village issues, exchange ideas and get answers to your questions. And we may even call on you to help put your ideas into practice.
This village is home to residents with impressive credentials whose ideas and opinions should be valued, not dismissed. We will respect the ideal embodied in the portrait that hangs in the village boardroom and welcome the members of the public that come before the board.