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September 23, 2014
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An open letter to the Town of Delaware Town Board

By Steve Lundgren
September 25, 2013

The “Town Law Manual” published by the New York State Association of Towns states: “When a town board member votes on a proposal before a town board, he or she is representing, through that vote, the views of all of the residents of the town. Thus, a high personal responsibility rests on individual town board members. It requires that they exercise careful consideration in making important decisions which will affect the lives of town residents and businesses.”

Over the past several years, controversial issues have dramatically illustrated that the town’s various boards have not always represented “…the views of all of the residents of the town.” Because serious communications problems have occasionally occurred between the board and its constituents, I offer some suggestions to make it easier for board members to represent all of their constituents accurately and fairly.

First, let me give you an example of one of the barriers to effective communication between the board and the average citizen: when trying to communicate with my representatives on the town board, I’ve found it awkward because there is no set time or place to meet with a representative. Because I respect your right to privacy, I am not comfortable knocking on your door, or phoning you at home in the evening, or leaving an email in your personal inbox. I once interrupted a private phone conversation between a board member and his wife, and felt like I was intruding. I could be wrong, but I imagine that you don’t appreciate it when a constituent pulls into your driveway, or calls you at home, or sends an email to your private e-mail address.

I suppose I could send you a letter, submit a letter to the editor like this one, sign a petition, or even speak out during public comment period at one of your meetings, but I’ve tried all these and my letters or comments have generally been ignored or not answered.

So, how could you improve this situation? Here are two easy solutions:

1) First, provide email addresses for individual board members (Planning Board Chairperson).

a) The system should include a “read receipt” feature to indicate that the message was received.

b) The system should automatically indicate when the recipient is unavailable and forward the message to the town clerk or an alternate board member.

2) Second, establish office hours for board members to be available to meet with constituents at the town hall.

a) Perhaps two board members could be available for an hour or two every week on a rotating basis, which would yield the following benefits: