Tuesday, March 06, 2007

PUBLIC PROHIBITED FROM SPEAKING AT TODAYS WORK SESSION--A STEP BACKWARDS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT

The Greenburgh Town Board held a work session regarding the library on Tuesday afternoon. We heard from our construction lawyer, TRITON (library construction manager), our architects. HOWEVER-- the Board (to my dismay) did not provide residents with the opportunity to ask questions. I've been attending Greenburgh Town Board meetings since my student days at college. This is the first time, in my memory, that the public is being shut out of the process. Residents have always been provided the opportunity to speak at the informal work session meetings.
The Town Attorney advised me that I was required to sign the library construction contracts. I signed the contracts. Some residents, in attendance, had questions about the library construction modifications that were made after the contracts were awarded to the bidders in December. They should have had the opportunity to speak out and ask their questions.
Democracy works best when people have the opportunity to partner in the decision making processes.
Let's make Greenburgh the most open government again!

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

"They should have had the opportunity to speak out and ask their questions."

There have been so many opportunities to speak about library construction. I'm not sure what the law says about these work sessions, but I'd think that they'd be for working on tasks and such, not for a general public forum.

Anonymous said...

Residents of the town have always been able to speak at these work sessions and ask questions. The town could save money, avoid making mistakes if they provide the public with a forum to ask questions.

Anonymous said...

THE DICTATOR OF GREENBURGH,SHEEHAN HAS TAKEN AWAY MOST OF OUR FREEDOMS. ATTENDING WORK SESSIONS THAT CONCERNS OUR MONIES ,KEEPING OUR MOUTHS SHUT ,DOES NOT HAPPEN IN AMERICA.WE WILL BE IN GRAVE TROUBLE FOR THE REST OF HIS TIME IN OFFICE.

Anonymous said...

I certainly believe that the public deserves opportunities for discussion, but do council members get time to just do work together quietly? I'm just thinking in terms of my own job - I wouldn't get much done if my clients were participating at office meetings.

Anonymous said...

When did Greenburgh become a RED TOWNSHIP.The board did not listen at town board meetings and at this session we were not allowed to speak.Sheehan and his three dummies,have taken away a freedom that is due us as Americans.The contracts were signed,yes but let's see how much this will cost in the end.Greenburgh now has a dictatorship with SHEEHAN as it's leader.

Anonymous said...

I'm no fan of dictatorships, but at least someone is taking charge around here.

In this morning's The Journal News, my favorite part of the library article is "We're telling you to do your job," board member Francis Sheehan said.

I wish that statement was used more often - not just in terms of the Town Supervisor, but the other municipal managers, as well.

I hope that whoever is our next Town Supervisor will be an experienced CEO who understands her/his role in working with a board and in working as an organization's senior executive manager.

Little Caesar said...

The Great Martin Luther King Jr. said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Beware the power accumulated by Sheehan. He has already carried out injustices such as using Gil Kaminer to threaten a women and deny her her right to speak in an open meeting. This is an injustice. Sheehan has assumed leadership of the Council in its ongoing battle with Feiner. While many might cheer him on because of their personal hatred of Feiner, I say beware of this "Little Caesar." Remember, someday Sheehan might not like what you will have to say and use his bulldog Kaminer to threaten you! As the saying goes, "Be careful for what you wish for, you might get it."

Feiner's irrelevancy more apparent said...

Last week a blogger wrote that Feiner is increasingly isolated. According to today's Journal News, Feiner was outvoted 4-1 on the library contracts. It seems the town councilmembers have figured out that Feiner is neither a problem solver nor a public servant - he is a career politician whose expiration date cannot come too soon.

Anonymous said...

Feiner might have been outvoted 4-1 yesterday. Remember, when the US Congress voted to support the war against Iraq overwhelmingly. Leaders like Al Gore took stands based on integrity. They looked bad then. We appreciate their leadership now. A leader sometimes has to speak the truth, even if it may not be popular.

Anonymous said...

Hey - what are you bitching about? You (Paul "l'etat c'est moi" Feiner) regularly prevent the public from speaking at regular Town Board meetings. Why should work sessions be any different? No dial-in democracy, no webcasts, no minutes - its the perfect extension of your Opin (for Opinion) Government.

Get Real on Feiner said...

The truth about Feiner is that he admitted to "white" lying to the town board and others. Feiner said he wanted to do his due diligence on the library contracts. The time to have done his homework was before they went out for bids. Feiner is lazy. Thats what you get with a career politican who has been there for 16 plus years.

Anonymous said...

Feiner did not vote for the contracts with the library. He issued many warnings --these warnings are turning out to be true.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to be a self-fulfilling prophet when you have the ability to stand in the way when you don't get your own way

Anonymous said...

The only thing that Paul, could say to the public when things start going wrong ,I TOLD YOU SO.By the way let me thank you for trying to enlighten all of us as to what was wrong.It's too bad that it will cost all of us more money.Your FOUR SEAT WARMERS SHOULD BE MADE RESPONSIBLE for the difference of monies that it will cost.

Anonymous said...

Well, the Library 20 million dollar bond issue vote was held at a time of year when those who wanted a new library knew that very few people would vote or even know their was a vote (as the supporters knew). Only voted on by 4,000 people and only passed by 67 votes. The Board except for Feiner, (who knew this was a dirty trick) had their way - and the rest of us pay forever.

Why would you even imagine that a Council who did this would have any scrupples about closing a work session on the library to the public for their comment.

This is stealth government by the few and for the few - except WE all have to pay for the stealth.

Amazing what can happen in a democracy when people don't keep a close eye on the elected few.

Why is Juettner the liaison? said...

One person that doesnt have to pay for the library and is immune from any reduction in library amenities or services due to poor oversight of the construction and the bidding process is village resident diana juettner. Why residents of unincorporated greenburgh allow her to be the liaison from the town board to the library is puzzling.

Attacks on Juettner unwarranted said...

Diana Juettner, a long-time professional educator and lawyer, and a 16-year veteran of the Town Board, is an excellent choice to be the Town Board's liaison to the library.

No one who supports the current library renovation project has had anything critical to say of her role as liaison. Her only critics are those who've opposed the library project from the very beginning.

Ms. Juettner's job is a difficult one. She has to do battle daily with a supervisor who opposes the project and continues to do everything he can to undermine it.

Friends of the library know that were it not for Ms. Juettner, Feiner would have sold the old town hall property to the client of his largest contributor at a sweetheart price, and forced the library to accept the much more modest renovation which Feiner was insisting on.

Anonymous said...

That attack on Diana Juettner seems to be from a village resident who is swallowing, hook, line and sinker, Feiner's big lie that there will be a reduction in library amenities or services due to "poor oversight of the construction and bidding process."

You got any proof of that, Mr. Village Resident?

Anonymous said...

Village residents have no interest in the library. By law, the library is owned and paid for by the unincorporated area residents. Saying that someone who complains about Diana Juettner must be a village resident is typical of those who won't accept any criticism of the library board or the town board for the sloppy way the library project has been handled. Feiner hasn't been right about much, but his warnings about the library were right on target. If the Feiner-bashers would stop and think and get honest for a minute they would admit that.

juettner's record is mediocre at best said...

oh lets count the ways and assess the value of 16 year town council veteran diana juettner.
the project is about a year behind schedule. there is even a recent round of emails that the 5th contract for the geothermal has not been signed. so the library was closed when construction was not even likely to start. where was ms juettner in all this other than appearing at a photo-op a month or so ago with a shovel to give the (false) impression the libary project was about to happen. among other failings, ms juettner never told anyone that the old town hall (which the architect initially said was not needed for the new library project) could not be used as a temporary library site because it had many environmental problems (did she even attend meetings where it was discussed they would be using the old town hall site? - the charade of planning to use the old town hall site went on for about 8 months without a peep from the silent one). As for juettner the lawyer, she was asleep at the wheel when the town board reckelessly approved the westhelp deal (a deal she wanted to keep alive in part even after the revelations about the numerous misuses of the money given to valhalla as exposed by valhallavoice.com). she never saw a proper legal opinion because no one got one - she probably accepted the bogus one feiner presented. Her legal acumen also played a starring role in the taxter ridge case. first she voted to acquire taxter with only unincorporated paying for it even though its open to village residents (she later voted to untax herself by voting to appeal the trial court's decision in favor of mr bernstein that held all residents of the town had to pay for taxter - i suppose she believes in a free lunch too?). As for her 16 years of experience - can you name anything of significance she has done other than allow the town to be underinsured as in the tree case? or until recently vote in lock-step with mr feiner? How about her never asking to see a site plan or a rendering of that hideous wall in front of webb field (question - FEMA funds were used for that - does ms juettner approve of that outrageous use of our tax money in the same way mr feiner does?)

the bottom line is that ms juettner is a village resident and should not be the liaison from the town board to a library project that is being paid for solely by residents of unincorporated greenburgh.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 2:16 is also swallowing the big lie that Feiner's warnings about the library were right on target.

Feiner opposed the library renovation from the get-go and he's been trash talking it from Day 1.

But there's no evidence of anything actually having gone wrong.

Feiner proudly announced months ago that the project bids came in way over budget. He was wrong.

Feiner then proudly announced that the project would end up costing taxpayers much more than the amount of the bond issue. So far he's been wrong about that too.

In the last few weeks, Feiner's been eagerly warning that the project might have to be killed because the town had not yet applied for certain geothermal permits. He was wrong on that score as well.

Feiner then assured library opponents that he'd hold up signing the construction contracts until he himself could do his "due diligence." He quickly backed off once he realized that his not signing the contracts would recklessly expose the town to damages for breach.

Anonymous at 2:16 nevertheless insists without evidence or example that both the town and library boards have been sloppy when it comes to managing the project.

Anonymous at 2:16 also gets the law wrong.

Despite what he and other village residents may think, the Greenburgh library is NOT owned by unincorporated area residents. To the contrary, it is owned by the Town.

Unincorporated area residents cannot by law own any property or buildings in the Town of Greenburgh unless they form a "district." No district was ever formed for the library.

The state law creating the town library was passed in the late 1950s. The idea, back in the bad old days of restricted zoning, was to keep unincorporated area residents away from the town's individual village libraries by having the town establish its own separate library.

The village leaders who ran the town back then also saw to it that, in getting the state to authorize formation of the town's library, the library's capital and operating costs would always have to be paid for by unincorporated area residents only.

Juettner's record is good said...

The angry blogger's case against Juettner on the library is all smoke, mirrors and empty rhetoric.

The blogger claims that Juettner is to blame for construction being delayed.

However, most of the delay is attributable to the town's decision, early on, to treat itself like any other applicant that must obtain approvals from its Zoning and Planning Boards.

That process cost the library months of delay. As a result, final site plan approval didn't even get to the town board for approval until this past summer!

The blogger also blames Juettner for not knowing sooner that the old Town Hall building couldn't be used as a temporary library location.

Maybe she and the experts should have known sooner, but so what? How did that impact on getting zoning/planning and town board site plan approval? It didn't.

Nor did it delay construction. While the town was trying to get its own town board approvals, the town was also trying to lease temporary space.

Juettner, wisely, saw that the quest for temporary space was getting needlessly prolonged and put a stop to it. She insisted that the library board come up with alternatives to Frank's Nursery, and as soon it became clear that Frank's was a no-go, the town already had in place its satellite system.

Finally, the blogger blames Juettner for the library closing, in his opinion, a month or so too soon.

In fact, interior demolition, the first step in the construction process, began immediately after the library's groundbreaking ceremony in late January.

Ms. Juettner may be rightfully criticized for her actions in other areas -- the blogger seems to have lots of opinions about that -- but her work so far for the library has been pretty good.

Anonymous said...

The question why village resident Diana Juettner is the liaison to the greenburgh public library (paid for 100% by unincorporated residents) is still unanswered. With millions of dollars ready to be spent, why of all board members is she the one in this position? Her tendency to tax everyone but herself should give unincorporated residents great pause especially as we approach the election season. Her overall record on the board remains unimpressive.

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't Diana Juettner be the town board's library liaison?

To paraphrase Rumsfeld, you have to work with the Town Board you have, not the one you might wish you had.

Juettner is a professional educator and lawyer. Having the library liaison be a professional educator makes good sense and, given the complexities involved in the library expansion, her being a lawyer can't hurt either.

So, even though she doesn't live in unincorporated Greenburgh, her colleagues evidently felt Juettner was the best qualified among them to be the library liaison.

Francis Sheehan, the board's other a professional educator, did not join the board until January 2006. He might have been a good choice too, but Juettner had already been working as library liaison for several years and, as a former zoning board member, it clearly made more sense for Sheehan to be the town board's liaison to the planning and zoning boards.

Juettner took an oath of office to serve the entire town, not just the villages where she lives. Those who suggest that because she is a village resident she is unqualified to act on matters pertaining to unincorporated Greenburgh seem to forget that she owes a legal duty to the entire town, including its unincorporated areas.

Anonymous said...

Why should Sheehan be the library liaison? He hasn't shown any interest in the library construction project. He's been asleep when it comes to the library construction project.

hal samis said...

Dear Anonymous AKA Sponge,

If your child has the misfortune to attend Mercy College and after you got over your chagrin, would you be as happy if you found that your heir was in a course taught by that great humanitarian and Educator, Diana Juettner (DEM representing the Villages)?

Where did this term Educator come from? Perhaps from those same wonderful folks who also gave you Sanitary Engineer.

And 5:03, "being a lawyer can't hurt either" -- welcome to the blog because, the #1 target on his own pages is that too.

But what Ms. Juettner is known for is not her great accomplishments in the field of higher education or her challenging legal career and certainly not for her quotable remarks at her lengthy residence on the Town Council; it is for her eulogizing at Town Board meetings following the moment of silence after the announcements of the recent passing of long time Greenburgh residents or former town employees. Were it not for this exposure, she and her peer, Eddie Mae Barnes (DEM representing Edgemont) would have nothing to say.

And nothing is what Ms. Juettner says well. Many of you out there can remember so well the 16 year career of the Supervisor but have trouble remembering what exactly Ms. Juettner does as the Town Board liaison to the Library. First off, you would assume that being on the Town Board so many years, she would know something about the building at which she attended so many meetings: the old Town Hall. Perhaps she was even awake at a few of those meetings when reasons were given supporting the move out of the old building. Certainly more space was the big factor. But there was also those troublesome details about the condition of the building: the leaking roof, the overloaded electrical circuits, the faulty and inadequate HVAC system, the mold, the lack of an elevator and other ADA requirements etc. Things that might have been useful to know when filling her other seat assignment, liaison at the Library Board of Trustees monthly meetings. So when the Library pinned its hopes upon using the old Town Hall as their relocation vehicle while construction was underway, it might have been somewhat "judicious" to pass some of her insight along to the Library, teaching them what she knew. However, when the Referendum was passed and the Construction Manager Triton which had estimated $300,000 eight months before as the cost to convert the old town hall to library use actually went inside the building for the first time (yes, they estimated without inspecting...all those times they appeared at the information sessions they never came a half hour early to check it out) they discovered that the building, gasp, didn't have an elevator, wasn't ADA compliant, had mold, the HVAC system was shot and would require a lot more than anticipated for a building which would be demolished after the new library was built. So, this discovery July 2005 led to the admonition to the OAT meeting participants that the relocation had to be in place by December 2005 for the plan to proceed but those with still functioning memories know that the Frank's lease collapsed Labor Day 2006. By the way, who offered the Town Hall space to the Library, not Juettner but Feiner. Well maybe being an Educator isn't what it's cracked up to be. In "The King and I" we learn "that if you become a teacher by your pupils you'll be taught". If your eyes are closed, the pupils will not see anything; if these pupils are also overwhelmed from an 8 month course in reading a lease for Frank's, how about a little help from the Library's on-board Lawyer/Educator? An interesting little sidebar on Ms. Juettner's resume as the Library liaison or going the full circle: something from nothing is nothing.

But, maybe she forgot to tell the Library Board? We all forget to speak up in those non Kodak moments. Or maybe she forgot to attend the Library Board of Trustee meetings too. I kept track and in a one year period around this time she missed 46% of their meetings. Look at the meeting minutes and the attendance record. More recently she has been seen more in attendance (still not heard) because I called her on it. See even a non-educator can EDUCATE an old dog to learn new tricks. But perhaps saying the she may have forgotten about the meetings was too harsh an indictment. Maybe the other possibility was more the possibility. The same night of the month and at roughly the same time is the similarly monthly meeting of the Greenburgh Democratic Party held in Ardsley. They keep attendance records in their meeting minutes also. Wouldn't it be a fun thing to compare. Instead of "Where's Waldo" can you think of of a new game? Oh, you guessed.

So lets go back again to those thrilling days of yesteryear and ask also where Ms. Juettner was when the Sunrise controversy was reigning. For those of you who have forgotten during your own "16 years of loading #9 coal", the Library Board of Trustees responded to a request from the "straw boss" Town Board (Feiner, Bass, Barnes, Weinberg and JUETTNER) and said: we won't need the old town hall parcel, "just a few bricks in the wall" ("well bless my soil") for our own expansion. This gave the Town Board the right (NYS Town Law) to dispose ("Saint Spitzer don't you find me") of "surplus" property and commence sale discussions with Sunrise. How did the Library Board know this? Because the Town had hired an Architect to develop an expansion plan for the Library upon the remaining property to see if it was feasible to have both uses. Yes said the Architect. The site can comfortably contain both structures and still have 160 parking spaces for the Library ("I owe my soul to the company store"). Of course, you will recall that the Library eventually pleaded that they didn't need (now in possession of the entire parcel) them and asking for a variance and walked away with 120 spaces and 34 landbanked.

And who was the Architect who came before the Town Board to assure them that it would be fine? Why Todd Harvey, the Library's choice for their future home. And who was on the Town Board and was the Library liasion while all this was hastening along to the vote? Why Diana Juettner who continued to practice her braille routine while tending to her knitting AND not speaking up to say STOP THE TRAIN.

In fact, the only reason that the Sunrise sale was scuttled was that the Library Board was woken up from their ride to nowhere by the loud knocking of several vocal residents (including myself), civic groups, and outcry which caused the coverage by the media was all it took to rouse the Sleeping Educator/Lawyer/Town Council Member/Liaison to the Library in time to say that we shouldn't sell the parcel until we know whether it is needed for the library expansion. By the way the Sunrise proposal was not a bad use of the site and one which would have been embraced by the neighbors versus selling the land for another commercial use.

So today Ms. Juettner is seen as not only an Educator and a Lawyer but also as the Town Board liasion to the Library who worked tirelessly to shepherd the project along its rocky road.

But like sheep which scatter when danger is felt, so will the Town Council when the actual construction is underway and the dream will sink or swim. And without the support of the others, Ms Juettner will soon be out shopping for a new wolfskin.

As usual, the Reader's Guide is available for patrons on a non-reserve basis at leading library satellites everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Perpetual library crank Samis aims a lot of angry words in Diana Juettner's general direction but, like Feiner, when it comes down to substance, he comes up short.

His only substantive criticism of Juettner is that she originally went along with Feiner's plan (which even Samis was against) to sell the old town hall to a developer.

He leaves out the part where Juettner took the lead and wrote the resolution in April 2004 that blocked Feiner from selling the property to the client of his largest campaign contributor. Feiner subsequently dumped Juettner as his "running mate" and she in turn conducted her own independent campaign for reelection to the town board -- and was the leading votegetter -- receiving hundreds more votes than even Feiner himself.

Samis also faults Juettner for not knowing sooner that the old Town Hall site would not be suitable for a temporary library location.

One could also fault Feiner for this too. After all, unlike Juettner, Feiner was the town's only full-time elected official, his office was in the building and, because he was determined to say and do anything he could to get voters to reject the library expansion, it would have been very easy for him to tell the public that using town hall was not a realistic assumption.

But he never did.

Finally, Samis alleges that Juettner has a poor attendance record at library board meetings. But he conveniently doesn't say when these supposed absences occurred.

The bottom line is that Samis' Feiner-inspired attacks on Juettner are baseless.

Anonymous said...

GREENBURGH had problems before,but since SHEEHAN joined forces with the other three on the board,our problems have magnified.Why is this happening? He got where he is because he told the voters a bunch of lies.This position should change hands when the public is dissatisfied with representation.If we were ready to impeach the President of the U.S.what stops us from changing the members of the town board.

hal samis said...

Dear 10:06,

Feiner is not the the Town Board liaison to the Library. Why have a liaison if Feiner is expected to be doing that job too. Feiner who already was in the doghouse regarding the Library would have had to go against the distributed project estimate by the Library-hired construction manager and say "you guys are wrong, it will take a lot more than $300,000 to cure the problems..." Did you expect Feiner to know more than or say he knew more the on-board experts that the Library assured the Public were on the job. Remember citizens Laubich, Sissel and Palevesky et al who were "consultants" to the Library Board.

Juettner was the point person which is what a liaison does.

If you want specific attendance dates, go look. However I think I did give the inference (which was correct) that her absences occurred during the troublesome period in question.

Nor did I leave out the part "where Juettner took the lead" which I thought was clear that it came only after she and the Town Board was slapped silly by the individual residents, the civic associations, the newspapers and only then did she "realize" that she had some vague responsiblity to the Library.

Your incorrect and misleading entry contains few truths which is often the route chosen by those who remain anonymous. The most accurate statement is found at the the last lines of your posting;
your "bottom line" is indeed at the bottom of your post.

I think that it is quite clear that I did not come "to praise" Juettner. She has not earned any praise and I think that I have more than adequately documented it.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why anyone on the council would want to prohibit the public from speaking at a meeting. Is this Putin's Russia?

Anonymous said...

If people are not allowed to speak, issues are not raised and mistakes are made. Sheehan, Kaminer and company can continue to waste our money.

Anonymous said...

Sheenan has waisted $50,000,on Gil.He made sure the other town members voted yes for this man made position,which Feiner voted no.Let's look into other things that this mad man has presented that was not needed.Why is it that no one has ever suggested to looking into his doings?,The Supervisor was investigated recently why not Sheenan and Gil. What's the connection? Gil you should have stayed with the newspaper and not get involved with town politics.Sheenan needed a patsy and you were it.too bad..

Anonymous said...

You mean there is more to that job than whispering sweet nothings in his boss's ear at the Town Board meetings?

I thought that looked real cute on TV.

Anonymous said...

Sheehan, how about stepping down.You should be the first and then maybe the other three will follow.With all of your hoopla ,you have made GREENBURGH ,A LAUGHING STOCK,in the eyes of the other Westchesterites.Our new govenor is looking to straighten out New York.Something tells me he will eventualy get to our ill fated town.Sheehan don't wait too long,we do not want too much to hit the fan.You have been shoveling it from one side to another,and your fellow cohorts follow.Had we known what the elections would have given us believe me people would have thought twice instead of voting for a party person.,

Anonymous said...

Too bad Spitzer's financial cavalry will arrive too late. The Town has borrowed enough money to insure years of double digit tax increases so that they wouldn't have to raise taxes for necessary repairs. Borrowing money to repave the roads every year is stupid, that's what taxes are supposed to used to do. So is buying computers with 5 year lives and bonding them for 15 years. Now we're deferring the repairs at Theo Young and Anthony Veteran Parks (but we'll have free wi-fi!).
There is also the matter of the Town Garage - to avoid the Wickes law and its requirements, we built it as 5 small projects over 5 budgets - and guess what: the small projects were just that, the $19.8 million public works garage is not large enough for the trucks. Nice job guys!
As for ethics - the complete lack of concern for anything and everything except low taxes and competitive electoral advantage, that is, bragging rights, has left anyone with a sense of decency vomiting by the unrepaired side of ay significant road in Greenburgh.
The best thing may be to allow the villages to secede, let Edgemont become the second incorpporated village in the Town of Scarsdale and leave the unhappy residents of Central Seven to their own devices - with fewer distractions they may do a much better job...