Your Right to be Heard

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees not only freedom of speech, but also the right of the people to petition the government for the redress of grievances. And the current village board is attempting to infringe on your rights in these critical areas.

They object to citizens speaking at board meetings when they attempt to redress their grievances before the board. They claim that such citizen participation is disruptive and that they are not obligated to respond to your reasonable questions. They claim that the “Citizen Participation” items on meeting agendas only allow for the public to make statements, but that they have no obligation to even listen to what you say, much less respond and take it into account in the formulation of policy. They talk about reducing the time allowed for such statements from five to three minutes.

A petition opposing the acquisition of the Gouveia property, and containing over 400 signatures, was summarily thrown into the trash. The mayor claims that he spends numerous hours responding to constituents’ e-mails, but how many of you who have submitted such inquiries to the board have ever received a response or had the board open a dialog on the issue you presented? It seems that your name has to be Barbara Sarbin in order for anyone on the board to listen to you or get back to you with more than an acknowledgement that your note was received.

Croton United will end these practices. While we appreciate that practicality dictates that there must be some limits on the time set aside for public statements at meetings, we will certainly not reduce the currently allotted time. We 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. 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.

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. 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 respond to questions.  And we may even call on you to help put your ideas into practice.