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The importance of an informed public

June 23, 2011

It is expected that elected town officials understand and evaluate resolutions put before them for a vote. It is reasonable that the voters of the town should be aware of the content of these resolutions in addition to the outcome of the vote. An informed public is a better voting body. In the business world, an educated consumer can make more knowledgeable choices. Governance of the business of our communities should offer no less.

During my tenure as supervisor of the Town of Callicoon, resolutions before the board were read in full, or the content summarized for the public in attendance. I believe this, and further measures, are necessary to maintain transparency in government.

Resolutions on the agenda for the June 13 town board meeting were listed as “MMTF Resolution” and “Bond Refinancing Resolution.” No public comment was made prior to the “Business Items” segment of the meeting, as the content of the resolutions was unknown to the public. The resolutions were not read aloud, hard copies were not available at the meeting, nor were they posted on the website. The agenda items are vague: what bond is the town refinancing? Does anyone not actively involved in town government know what “MMTF” stands for?

A member of the public suggested during the “Board Comments and Open Floor” portion of the meeting that the town should henceforth take these simple steps to share the contents of future resolutions. Supervisor Tom Bose dismissed the suggestion, saying, “We (meaning the members of the town board) know what’s in them.” This paternalistic style of government has not been acceptable for years—if ever.

G. Jeffrey Haber, executive director of the Association of Towns of the State of New York, said, “There has probably always been a fine line between those who serve and those who feel entitled to serve.” Governing bodies have an obligation to inform the public, thereby including the public in decision making. Around the globe, this is known as democracy.

Linda M. Babicz
Youngsville, NY