Thursday, January 04, 2007

YOU'LL BE ABLE TO WATCH LENO AND LETTERMAN INSTEAD OF THE TOWN BOARD--MEETINGS OF TOWN BD TO END BY 11:15 pm

I have asked the Town Board to agree to a Board rules change. All meetings of the Town Board should end no later than 11:15 PM, unless there is unanimous consent to extend the time. Public comments should close by 11 PM. Department heads who are currently required to attend all Town Board meetings should be able to leave and go home to their families after 10:45 PM.
When members of the Board vote on important laws - we should all be awake and concentrating.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent idea and hopefully this will cause some of the board members to refrain from their typical log rolling foolishness.

Anonymous said...

This proposal is very troubling.

No one wants meetings to last beyond 11:15 p.m., but the Comptroller's report on Valhalla makes clear that Feiner's actions as town supervisor require a lot more oversight from the town council and the public than was previously thought to be the case.

Never again can the town council accept Feiner's representations that an agreement he negotiated has been fully vetted by counsel and that its terms are fair and reasonable to the town.

From now on, for the sake of our pocketbooks, all such agreements must be carefully scrutinized by the public, which will take a lot of time.

In addition, there would need to be curbs on Feiner's practice of packing the room with supporters of whatever issue he's trying to promote that day.

On those days, which seem to be occurring more and more, public comment doesn't start until well past midnight and often doesn't occur at all.

There's nothing wrong with participatory democracy, but Feiner's insistence on giving everyone he lobbies to show up an opportunity to speak is his way of filibustering.

In so doing, Feiner is able to keep his critics from speaking during "prime time" -- if they get to speak at all. He is thus able to make Town Board meetings more closely resemble infomercials for his re-election.

To many of us, that's what his 11:15 pm curfew is all about.

Anonymous said...

I am certain Hal Samis will get more than 5 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Paul is doing a good job minding the store. Services are excellent, the town staff is very courteous and helpful. Paul really cares about the people.
I don't want my representatives making decisions on important matters when they are sleepy. This is a good suggestion. It is good common sense.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy watching Town Board meetings for entertainment value. I wish the meetings would end before I go to sleep (around midnight). I hate missing any of the fun, name calling. Thanks for ending meetings at a reasonable hour. Now, I won't miss the show!

Anonymous said...

Well for the commenter before me who loves the show, it appears to continue on in blog form. The second comment of this thread sounds like one from a member of the gang of malcontents.

Anonymous said...

Without malcontents we'd still be British subjects.

Feiner is a Retail Amatuer said...

What store are you talking about? The one in the Valhalla School District where he gave it all away or the underinsured one in Greenburgh?

hal samis said...

The moment many of you ahve been waiting for but not on the topic you had hoped.

I disagree with Mr. Feiner regarding a fixed meeting time curfew.

PART ONE

But first let me remind readers that PUBLIC HEARINGS are run under NYS OPEN MEETING LAWS which do not impose time limits for speakers. That is why Samis gets more than 5 minutes and returns to the podium.
What the Town Board can control is only the PUBLIC COMMNENT portion of the Agenda. If you are one of the group that argue that the Town should be following NYS laws regarding accounting and disposition of WESTHELP funds, then you should be consistent and want the Town to follow the NYS laws regarding PUBLIC HEARINGS regardless of who is the speaker and what they position they are espousing.

And if the Town Board conducts (a scheduling problem they are capable of solving) a number of PUBLIC HEARINGS on a busy night, then they run the risk of having a late night or having to continue the PUBLIC HEARING to another night and causing NOTICING problems.

That said let me address some of the problems of set time of adjournment and even a few ways to avoid the onset of late meetings. It is not a problem to me because I am a late night person but I can understand that it is problematic to others.

Meetings are scheduled to start at 7:15. They do not. It should not be difficult to get the quorum of only three Town Board members at the meeting on time, even if they rotate this responsibility among themselves. Alternatively if the 11:15 curfew defines a meeting as four hours, then the meeting should end four hours after it actually starts.

The opening comments should be brief and not require the Town Board members to individually add their comments on-camera. Do this the previous day at their work session.

If "guests" are invited to address the meeting during the Supervisor's Comments section, impose time limits of 10 minutes tops. No way can a meeting be held to a time limit when someone is allowed to speak on coyotes for a half hour or make a half hour report on the Tappan Zee Bridge. During thw Supervisor's comments are the recognition awards which, especially when childen are involved, requires reading each person's name and/or having them assembled at the front of the room. While I accept the necessity of this and see it as an ongoing part of the meeting, I point out that it is time consuming and there are ways to shorten the lapsed time. Again, I am not complaining about the late hour just stating ways to avoid a mandatory curfew and the expense of necessary business while knowing that this curfew will not be strictly adhered to in actual practice.

Have the Town Board do their work at their work session. Don't hold a work session during the Town Board meeting or convene a separate meeting during the Town Board meeting.

Stop the bickering on the dias. If the Town Council wants to beat up the Supervisor do it on their own time and off camera. Alternatively, each Council member can be allotted 5 minutes of Council Member comments on anything they want to say, 5 minutes though is it.

The comment period of Council members should be the same as is available to the Public during its turn at the podium.

If questions are asked by the Public, they should be answered while the resident is at the podium so that the resident can respond to the answer. Otherwise knowing this any member of the administration can say anything knowing there will be no opportunity to challenge their response. Question/Answer/Response should be the formula. Public Comment which is the opportunity to ask about anything on the Agenda, or not, may need the response to come from particular Town department. After Public Comment the Department heads should be free to leave as the members of the Town Board should already be aware of the Departmental matters that will voted upon later in the evening -- that is a function of their work session. If a Department head senses that he may need to stay that is his choice but don't make it appear that they have to stay late because of the public weal.

Town Board members do not have to individually comment on every matter. Town Board members do not have to add their sentiments and input after a recently deceased resident/employee has been remembered in the moment of silence.
That is what the moment is for.
Again, I don't care when the meeting ends; I am functioning here as an efficiency expert and trying to find ways for meetings to end earlier.

Those who want to speak should situate themselves near the podium as their turn approaches. The walking from the back of the room and back takes up time. This includes the Department heads who in fact should be sitting in the front rows, not only to discourage their noisy, disruptive chatter among themselves, and obvious disinterest in what is going on, but also to be accessible to the Public and the Town Board and to give the impression that they are at the meeting as part of their job. Thus, in review, park far away from the building but sit close to the dais.

Now let's see what will actually happen on a night when a PUBLIC HEARING is held. Say, later in January when the Edgemont moratorium is on the Agenda. Please give me a chance here, this is being used as an example and is true for all PUBLIC HEARINGS.

The Hearing will be opened and the Planning Commisioner will address the meeting, presumably to give some background...explaining the current zoning, the possible alternatives, the process etc. Since the underlying issue is about the assumed burden to the School system, a representative of the the Schools may be asked to provide some background. After the invited "experts" speak, the Town Board will ask questions of them, in turn, and make their own comments. This is assuredly a lengthy process because the topic will need everyone's contribution on a sensitive political matter in a politically sensitive part of town. Now the hearing has already taken at least 30 minutes before the first member of the public has spoken. Because this hearing, LIKE OTHERS BEFORE, it is about pressuring the elected officials, there will likely will have been an organized effort to recruit Edgemont residents to come out and argue for the moratorium. I, being against the moratorium, will represent the minority, not having recruited others to join me. I may make repeat turns to the podium but my total speaking time will not come close to that expended by the Edgemont residents. All this is fine and what a PUBLIC HEARING is about but nevertheless time consuming. Democracy does not come cheaply. If the hour is getting late, the Town Board will vote to adjourn the Hearing to a future date which will upset Edgemont people who will seek to have the matter concluded that night. Of course presenting fewer speakers would be a way to make this possible but this will not be the chosen path. The Town Board may ask questions, make comments at any interval throughout the Hearing AND may decide that they need to have some questions answered which cannot be answered that night, even if it is still early. More minutes will be expended seeking to avoid the necessity of having the questions answered before the vote, of voting and then getting the answers, of finding a way to get the questions answered that evening etc. Mr. Sheehan, with his open laptop at hand, is the main architect of this drama but most of the time he is justified in seeking information -- my beef is with how he uses this information. Mr. Kaminer will be scurrying about importantly carrying an armful of files and passing papers around the dais., papers which should have been available before. Likely the hearing will be held over to a future date because it is hard to estimate in advance what twists and turns the Public input will take matters. Some Edgemont speakers will return to the podium to argue how important it is to vote tonight (like the Health Center, like the Union Baptist Church, like the Library, etc. before them) but this is par for the course. And, to me and others, merely the price of doing business or being a citizen.

Nevertheless the clock is ticking and the meeting hour is getting late AND, there is still other important business remaining on the Agenda including PUBLIC COMMENT (presumably realting to all non Hearing matters) which will likely become an endangered species if it is eliminated due to the "late hour".

I'm taking a lunch break here. So this is the end of Part One.

Anonymous said...

Samis couldn't be more wrong.

Public hearings are not intended to be a forum for the public to debate the pros and cons of an issue as if they were representatives of some deliberative body.

Public hearings are legally necessary in order for the town to make an evidentiary record to support whatever decision its board decides to make.

Thus, in the case of the proposed moratorium, the issue is whether there is substantial evidence to show that such a moratorium is needed. If there is, and it's made part of the record, it will be considered in connection with any judicial review of the town board's actions.

There is no need for anyone to recruit dozens of speakers, pro or con, and most public hearings, even in Greenburgh, are concluded fairly quickly.

Greenburgh's problem is that Feiner often tries to use these hearings for partisan political purposes by packing the room with supporters of his position, and insisting that they each be given an opportunity to speak.

That takes time and often leads to a contentious and hostile atmosphere, which Feiner seems to encourage.

Alternatively, if Feiner likes what Samis has to say, he lets Samis speak in five-minute increments until he runs out of things to say (or the booing from the audience tells him it's time to wrap up).

All of this is unnecessary. If a group feels it's important to show up in large numbers, a properly functioning supervisor can and should ask that the group choose a spokesman, let the spokesman speak for five minutes, and then give everyone else the opportunity to submit their comments in writing.

The same rule should apply to Samis. He should have the same five minutes as everyone else, and since we all know he's not shy with the word processor, he should be asked to submit whatever else he has to say in writing.

The only downside to this approach is that no decisions can be made until all the written comments are received, which means that in some cases, decisions might have to be put off until the next meeting.

Michael Kolesar said...

This proposal is very dangerous and should be rejected by the Town Council. First, most public meetings are conducted under parliamentary procedures usually codified by "Robert's Rules Of Order". As such, meetings need to have a quorum to conduct business. No one person should have veto power over the continuation of a meeting that is in progress. If any participating member wants to leave the meeting that is their perogative. As long as a quorum exists, let the business proceed. A majority of the members may move to close the meeting at any time in accordance with these rules. No member of Congress has this kind of power or control and the Town of Greenburgh should not be setting such a dangerous precedent.

As to late meetings in general, stop with the side shows, such as the upcoming "duplicate" swearing in of Ms. Cousins, which will be followed by a "short" reception. She can have whatever "ceremonial" celebrations she wants, but don't delay the regularly scheduled Town Council meeting. I appreciate Ms. Cousins and support her in her new role, but the Town has serious business and citizens will be waiting unnecessarily to speak out on their important issues. Just run the meetings efficiently. Keep to the agendas. Encourage the submission of written comments and then publish them all for the public to see as well. Will the "damn the torpodes, full steam ahead" suffer if heaven forbid the Town Council actually listens to public comment? Yes. But maybe we'll get better results.

hal samis said...

Dear Mr Bernstein,
Didn't have time to wait for Part Two?
There won't be any residents from Edgemont at the moratorium hearing?
Just you and Michelle?
I'm looking forward to your evidence (inflammatory statements about Feiner, are they evidence?) as much as you no doubt are looking forward to Part Two.

Anonymous said...

To anon at 2:27,

the problem to Mr. Samis with your solution is that the only group he is with is the Feiner supporters --

hal samis said...

And for all we know 4:54 and 2:27 are the same people.

Anonymous said...

I knew it. No matter what the issue, in this case the flawed proposal to end meetings at 11:15, there is the usual crowd who accuses Feiner of corruption, of packing the room, of sponsoring Samis, etc. Can't these people speak to the subject without the vilification and paranoia?

As to the subject, much of what Samis says is correct, but there are other things that can be done to shorten the meeting. If Feiner can restrain himself and not make a comment after each speaker speaks, and if the other four can restrain themselves from their mutual and lengthy back-patting and posturing, and if Feiner and the other four would restrain themselves from their sniping at each other (which takes an interminable amount of time) meetings would move along quickly. We don't need to know how Feiner "feels" about each and every comment or suggestion, or how each Council member feels about how Feiner feels. We don't need all the show and tell displays about what everyone is doing, especially students. We don't need time-consuming ceremonial stuff like the Steweart-Cousind non-inauguration, and similar stuff which happens at most meetings. This is the kind of stuff Feiner dreams up, and so he should not be complaining about late meetings

In other words, make a choice. Stick to the agenda and run an efficient meeting or else put on a show, whether for political grandstanding or to undermine each other, in which case the meetings will go on and on.

By the way, for those who attack Samis because he doesn't join in in their attacks on Feiner, I will say that Samis is the only one -- well, perhaps not the only one -- who writes about the issues analytically and makes sensible observations and arguments (not all of which I agree with). I learn things from reading his comments, which is more than I can say about the comments by those whose only rationale for anything is that Feiner is rotten.

But writing sensibly invites scorn and attacks, it seems.

Anonymous said...

someone should ask the police
chief why a disbared member of the
force who happens to be african
amercican was promoted to lieutnant
over a white officer with an
unblemished record..in fact how
does a disbarred attorney who
violated his oath as an officer
of the court get to stay on
the police department who job
it is to uphold standards and
morality in the community

hal samis said...

PART TWO

From the Agena for Wednesday's Town Board Meeting.
And remember, this blog is about the proposal to end Town Board Meetings's by 11:15. Here is another suggestion of things that can be done to not waste time.

"Resolution requesting that the President of the United States and the United States Congress to increase funding for the planned United Nations peacekeeping operation, the current African Union peacekeeping operation and for humanitarian aid in Darfur."

This is being introduced by Council Member Steve Bass who is up for re-election this Fall.

I could leave it like that and fully have made my point but there will be anonymous bloggers who will start discussing here the merits of the proposal, the need for the United States to..., how it is a personal attack for me to use people's names...the usual.

By since I do admit to relishing overkill, let me go on and explain how this item will be handled if it follows the usual path of how the Town Board treats absurd "feel good" but ineffectual and inappropriate matters for Greenburgh; those issues designed solely to curry favor with voters, especially by those who will need to replace the votes forever lost from the Villages.

The Resolution will be introduced and the circumstances will be explained, perhaps even characterized as the result of discussions with constituents...Ms Barnes will need to launch into how we need to learn to get along with and help one another (she's running this Fall also) and not to be left out will be Ms Juettner who will also have to move her lips. I think Mr. Sheehan will have the good sense not to speak. Then they will vote unless, even though it is not shown on the Agenda as an item for discussion, (similar say to when Al Regula delivers a REPORT on the Library to the Town Board) somehow there just might be some residents present who are prepared to offer comments in support of the Resolution. Or, the vote may be postponed to another meeting. Who knows, I am certainly telegraphing my dissatisfaction via this blog.

Now, what's wrong with the Resolution? Why shouldn't residents want to do or be seen as on the humanitarian side?

Because this is not an issue for the Town of Greenburgh. Because even though the occupants of the dais are our elected representatives and officials, they were not elected to represent our personal beliefs but to administer the daily matters which affect our little corner of the world. If this narrow vision is upsetting, then consider that we also elect representatives to the State and Federal government who don't need any help from the Greenburgh Town Board. And how does the Town Board know how Greenburgh residents feel about these issues since they want to speak for us in Washington? Should they pay for a poll, should they pay for a referendum, should they hold a Public Hearing? Do we need the expense of the first two or do we need to waste the TIME of a Public Hearing, especially when they tell us they already can't work effectively just on existing Town matters when meetings end late.

What in their credentials when running for election gave us the comfort to trust them to represent we, residents, on INTERNATIONAL and NATIONAL issues? A few years ago, perhaps because they didn't have A and B budget issues to think about, the Town Board resolved to support a moratorium on the Death Penalty.
Now, when there is so much concern about meetings ending late at night (little things like the Budget, the VSD, Comprehensive Plans etc) does Mr. Bass really think that this is something that should be before the Town Board and, if so, should be voted upon and dispensed quickly without eliciting feedback from the Public. Or, is it possible that Mr. Bass is merely responding to the prompts of a certain Hartsdale campaign contributor who uses him as a platform for her causes (do you like it better without names?) or is Mr. Bass courting others.


The Town Board meeting should be used for legitimate business of the Town. If those on the dais are troubled by the late hour, they should clean their house first or better use the time at their Work Session. And, why is the Town Board meeting being singled out and not the Work Session. The Public has oft been told about the late sessions that occur there also (ma, look what they're doing to me now, they're making me work hard). Apparently it is ok when they can't work effectively late at night at their Work Session but not ok when they can't work effectively when their performance and work interactions are visible to more of the Public? Or is really an issue of trying to eliminate or reduce Public Comment, trying to find a way around the limitations of the NYS OPEN MEETING LAWS, particularly those which relate to PUBLIC HEARINGS.

If the Town Board is really trying to work more efficiently and effectively, first clean their own house before implementing means to infringe upon the rights of the Public.

It was not so long ago that Mr. Sheehan was troubled by a Town Board that rushed to adjourn the Town Board Meeting when the going got tough. NOw seated on the dais, he is joining those that merely want to get going.

One quick fix to stop wasting time would be to remove (SB1), the Bass Resolution from the Agenda. He'll just have to find some other way to get votes NOW.

Coming: PART THREE

Anonymous said...

Samis probably doesn't realize it, but the Darfur genocide is being addressed in Greenburgh churches and synagogues every week, with Greenburgh's priests, rabbis and ministers imploring everyone one of us, including our local public officials, to get our national government to take steps to stop it.

This is a holocaust happening "on our watch." Such matters probably shouldn't have to be addressed at town board meetings, but Darfus is a horror and Bass should be applauded for writing a resolution expressing the "sense of the town" on this.

It's the morally right thing to do, it's a message our local religious leaders are delivering to us all the time, and it is better than keeping silent.

The Bass resolution might even prompt one or more of us who, like our town board members, really have much more important things to worry about, to pick up the phone or write to our representative in Washington and tell them what we think.

Imagine if ten people from every town in America wrote their senator or congressman on this issue. It might make a difference.

Anonymous said...

I commend Bass. I do not want to have to answer to my grandchildren 20 years from now -- what did I do when confronted with the horrors of Darfur -- and have nothing to say.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of Woodlands Temple. I am pleased that the Town Board will be approving a resolution supporting efforts to end the genocide in Darfur. This spring members of our congregation took a bus trip to Washington DC and participated in a rally against genocide in Washington DC. Supervisor Feiner joined us. I hope that all the members of the Town Board will participate in future protests.

Anonymous said...

It is Ok to approve a resolution on Darfur if it makes people feel good. It is Ok to have a non-inauguration for Andrea Stewart Cousins if it makes Feiner feel good. It is OK to have all sorts of good acts and good citizens recognized, if it makes Town Board members feel good.

But in that case, stop talking about short meetings. I think that is what Samis was saying, and he is absolutely correct. You can't have five hours of activity squeezed into 3 1/2 hours. If you want to get out early, stick to Town buisiness and move it along. If you want to feel good, forget about ending meetings at 11:15.

hal samis said...

Of course I knew that the responses would be not about the Town Board meeting but about Darfur. So lets deal with the balls (do anonymous pitchers have balls?) as they are thrown. For all I know Mr. Bass is responding as anonymous.

Accepting the Feel Good Award are:
so far are 4:20, 4:53 and 5:34

4:20 It is being addressed in house of worship every week...
Samis Then it doesn't have to be discussed at Town Hall
4:20 Takes steps to stop it...
Samis What would those be, what should Washington do, are there any Reservists or National Guardsmen left to send? Just move the problem elsewhere is how you see it.
4:20 The Resolution expresses the "sense" of the town...
Samis Speak for yourself
4:20 morally right thing to do...
Samis Town Board votes for this Resolution and this is gets them and you in The Book of Life or Sainthood? This is the right thing to do yet you choose to be anonymous
4:20 imagine if 10 people from every town wrote letters...
Samis ok, get letters from 5 members on the Town Board, you at 4:20 plus 4:53 plus 5:34, just one person from all those churches and synagogues and Arlo Guthrie and you've got the 10. See you didn't need a Resolution.

4:57 I don't want to answer to my grandchildren 20 years from now what did I do...
Samis You want to be able to say that your Town Board voted on a Resolution to send someone else's sons to keep the peace. You should be proud and maybe Bass will send you a signed copy.

5:34 took the bus trip rally to Washington to rally against genocide and Feiner was there too...
Samis but you were the one wearing a mask, do you get called to the pulpit by the name anonymous or only on this blog. And one to ten, how successful was that bus ride because if it was near ten, we won't need the Resolution

I know I am getting sucked in by this soap opera and more the tragedy because the cause is just and I would not be speaking this way against anyone's PERSONSAL BELIEF'S or PERSONAL ACTIONS. But the issue is still the propogation of "FEEL GOOD" Resolutions which have zero impact, zero significance and zero standing.

This armchair liberalism while at the same time American boys and girls are dying around the world for "causes" is a sad commentary on how citizens are being hoodwinked.

But here's an idea. The Library expansion (not about the Library I'm just borrrowing the numbers) at $20 million was said to cost just $68 for the $15,000 average assessed home. If the Town Board passes a Resolution to send $20 million to Darfar Relief, I'll send my $68 even though I don't own a home. All of this other hokum is just ____.

And 4:53, then you can tell your grandchildren that not only did you watch your Town Board vote for SB1, you can also tell them you contributed $68...and voted for Steve Bass next November.

Finally, everyone who knows they are on the right side, even on this important matter, no one wants to use their own name, why is that?
And if asked to sign a petition or send a letter, do you scrawl anonymous too. What's wrong with this picture. No doubt I'm responding to all the people who are upset when I'm "rude" and protest incompetence at Town Hall and the Library. Maybe I should ask the Town Board to pass a Resolution discharging the Library Board.

Now hurry back to attacking me.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine if we were talking about the slaughter of world jewry?

To be consistent, Samis would have to be against that too. Not a proper subject for town discussion, he'd say. Takes too much time away from whatever it is he wants to yell at us about that night, I suppose.

Samis says he worships the god of Ayn Rand. She taught that one should care only about oneself, and no one else. She'd be proud.

Anonymous said...

There is currently going on a real dispute about the medical benefits of circumcision compared to the loss of sexual pleasure caused by it.

Do you think that the Town Board should wieigh in with a discussion and a resolution? Does the Town of Greenburgh, through its Town Board, need to be heard on the issue? Or is this, like many other emotional issues, not a proper subject for the Town to tackle.

hal samis said...

Because I am Mr. Feiner's pit bull he has leaked to me a draft list of the 21 additional Resolutions that the Town Council is preparing to introduce as soon as Mr. Kaminer can get around to drafting them.

I have also heard from an anonymous source outside the government that Greenbugh will be the first Town in Westchester to have a seat at the United Nations.

There will be one Resolution per Town Board Meeting; however the order of introduction and assignment of "sponsor" has not yet been made.

Terrorism
Dependence on foreign oil
Aids
Withdrawal from Iraq
Racism
World hunger
Global warming
Pandemics (bird flu, malaria..)
Poverty
Shortage of new pick-up lines
Restoring the Ozone layer
Crime
Trade defecits
Pollution
Population growth
Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Homophobia
Rights of women
Proliferation of nuclear weapons
Trade barriers
Religious Fundalmentalism
High cost of prescription drugs
Illiteracy

"The world can be a better place, put a little love in your heart" and keep those Resolutions coming.
How goes Greenburgh, goes the world.

hal samis said...

I understand there is a list of 12,132 world problems however,
it is now 11:15.

I move that tonight's blogging be adjourned.
Is there a second?