Perceptions matter

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 2/15/22

There are several different ways to interpret the actions of the Highland Town Board’s decision to not reappoint Johnny Pizzolato as Highland’s rep to the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway …

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Perceptions matter

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There are several different ways to interpret the actions of the Highland Town Board’s decision to not reappoint Johnny Pizzolato as Highland’s rep to the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway committee—even as he is currently the chairman of the regional body.

It could be politics.

Pizzolato ran against Jeff Haas for supervisor in the November 2021 election, losing by 15 votes.

It could be that Pizzolato, his partner and their business were in a messy zoning board of appeals hearing in 2020 following the discovery that eight-year-old paperwork was incomplete in the town files. Hard feelings about the process were an unpleasant experience for all sides.

With strained relationships, maybe the board just wanted someone new. Someone they felt they could work with better.

Maybe it was comeuppance time, retribution.

We can only speculate. The public process was simply an undiscussed resolution at the February 8 Highland Town Board meeting.

“The board wanted to go in a different direction,” Haas said in an interview following the meeting. It is their right to do so.

“That’s just how it goes” is an easy perception to hold.

If you couple that with the fact that Pizzolato was able to recruit a very suitable replacement that the board readily embraced as its representative and that he will stay on the byway council as an ex-offio member, representing the Greater Barryville Chamber of Commerce, one could claim, “No harm, no foul.”

Except for the perception and reality that a viable energetic chairman of a regional committee doing very good work—including facilitating the work that won the town a $125,000 Silver Feather award from Sullivan Renaissance; working with Sullivan County government to secure a $16,000 grant for high-tech refuse, recycling and wifi sites in the Town of Highland; and exploring the placement of an Upper Delaware visitors’ center in Callicoon with members of the Callicoon Business Association and the Callicoon Depot committee—has been unceremoniously removed from his position without any indication that he deserved it based on merit. Additionally, the removal was without any explanation, without any thanks or appreciation, and those who made the decision were seemingly unaware of or unconcerned with the effect that could ripple out onto that organization as well as others.

We are facing a time of extreme politicization of community issues. From vaccinations, masks, curricula and books, to personal pronoun choices, the reason for rising prices, and whether we believe that climate change exists, as a people we are disconnected and polarized. Some say that it is the biggest threat to our democracy. Add to that a lack of affordable housing, worker shortages, area gentrification, supply-chain delays of essential highway equipment and aging infrastructure, and you have a perfect storm of pressing issues and dysfunctional community communication.

With that, those in government, especially local interconnected governments and organizations, are especially charged to be transparent in their actions. As public servants, they are responsible for examining their behavior and decisions to determine what is best for the community and to articulate their reasoning to the public in a public space.

Perceptions about why government does what it does matter.

It’s one of the pillars holding up our democracy.

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