Thursday, July 12, 2007

LAND USE COMMITTEE AND DECISIONS MUST BE OPEN

I am requesting that the Land Use Committee of the town post agendas of the meetings on the internet and release minutes of all meetings.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Feiner is acting again not as town supervisor, but as "put upon town gadfly."

As town supervisor, he knows full well there is no town "Land Use Committee." And if there were such a committee, and he as town supevisor didn't know about, the town's got even more problems.

However, the last time we heard about this "committee," it turned out to be nothing more than an internal gathering of town staff with an interest in land use issues who met informally from time to time with a town board member other than Feiner who happened to share their interest in such issues.

This group of town employees has no more authority to make decisions as a group than Feiner's so-called SCOBA group did -- and, as we all know, Feiner set up SCOBA so that it didn't have to comply with either the state's Open Meetings Laws or the Freedom of Information Law.

If anything, the paranoia evident in this latest blog post is a reminder that Feiner does not generally communicate with town staff and they don't generally communicate with him.

It must therefore annoy Feiner greatly that town staff chooses to get together without him, and includes in their group a town board member other than Feiner.

Anonymous said...

There is a committee that was formed by his honor Sheehan. to look into comprehensive study of some sort. I'm sure it had something with development. Maybe this is what the supervisor is refering to.

hal samis said...

How stupid is this blogger?

"As town supervisor he knows full well there is no town "land use committee.
"And if there were such a committee, and he as town supervisor didn't know about..."

Does this anonymous jerk think he's got Feiner going and coming?

The thing about SCOBA is that everyone knew who was on it; that would be versus this "group" which either blogger doesn't really know who or he is covering for Mr. Sheehan who is the Town Board member. How's that for going and coming?

Since elsewhere anonymous blames Feiner for everything, wouldn't it be reasonable for the Town Supervisor to want to at least know what's going on?

If Feiner purposefully set up SCOBA so it didn't comply with open meeting laws or FOIL, which would not be nice, a thought which I suspect is shared by anonymous, then how come setting up a Land Use Committee, which just happens to fall under the same guidelines, is viewed by anonymous as ok when done by this "group" but producing a state of paranoia when Feiner or the Public hear of it.

So why is anonymous so concerned from a simple request to having the meetings open -- because he wants to punish Feiner or to punish the public. What would be the harm?

And who are these town employees "with an interest in land use issues who meet informally from time to time with a Board member? Would I be correct that some of these employees are Town Department heads and the higher staffing levels of these Departments. Anonymous makes it seem like it is some kind of club, people who share the same hobby. Well, if they are meeting in Town Hall, if they are using Town resources, if the members are Town staff, then they had pretty damn well be open to the Public. SCOBA on the other hand was mostly, if not all, resident volunteers.

This posting had to have come from either someone on or near to the Town Council (think Sheehan or Kaminer) or the ever pervasive, pompous famous Edgemont lawyer. But whomever is the author, this comment is by far the most inane one I seen posted on this blog in many months. I really, really, really hope that Berger is not learning about Greenburgh issues from such a teacher, for her own sake.

Anonymous said...

What law says that a group of town employees apparently meeting in town hall to discuss whatever they want to discuss, with no authority to decide anything, has to post agendas and create minutes of whatever they discuss at their meetings?

No law requires that.

If there were such a law, I'm sure Feiner's opponents would like to see agendas and meeting minutes generated every time Feiner meets in his town hall office with anyone.

After all, unlike this supposed "land use committee," which by law cannot decide anything, Feiner has authority as the town's chief executive officer to decide all sorts of matters.

For example, supposing Feiner meets in his town hall office with one of the developers who've contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign to discuss a pending application before the town. And Feiner decides in that meeting to support the application.

Shouldn't the public be entitled to see a copy each day of Feiner's agenda to see who he's meeting with, and isn't the public entitled to get minutes of anything that's said in those meetings, to make sure there's been no decisions made that might adversely affect the town's interests?

Surely what goes on in Feiner's office should be just as "open" as he insists this supposed land use committee must be?

Surely a more compelling case can be made to see that kind of information, as opposed to the kind of information that may be shared informally by town staff talking amongst themselves.

Anonymous said...

So, is there an official town Land Use Committee?

I'd also be interested in knowing what the the town's Beautification Committee has been working on.

Anonymous said...

There is no town "Land Use Committee."

Feiner made it up because he knows a group of town staff members has been meeting internally to discuss land use issues, but they don't invite Feiner to their meetings.

hal samis said...

Dear once a jerk, still a jerk at 3:38,

No milk and cookies for you.
You're being held for detention.
Write on the blackboard 500 times:

"If there is a meeting of licking minds, there is a committee"

Michael Kolesar said...

Dear Anonymouse 7/12 3:10 PM,

If the Supervisor or his assistant prepares any form of a day's "agenda / meeting schedule", it is in my opinion and I believe the State Office on Open Government, a FOILable document, whether electronic or "hard" copy. Should the Supervisor and all of the Town Council members publish their meeting schedules, and if so how often, daily? The President of the US, the Mayor of New York City, and I am sure many other public officials routinely do this. So FOIL his meeting schedule and see what you get.

If any notes / minutes are kept by any Town employees, they are FOILable, unless they pertain to those items that are excluded under the law such as litigation related or personnel evaluations / performance reviews. So, the Town Supervisor as a citizen, should just file a FOIL form with the Town Clerk for whatever material he thinks exists. (Let's not all hold our breath at how quickly he gets a response.) Now, if there is a record created and then not turned over / produced, then there will be cause for legal action, which I am sure the learned barrister from Edgemont can provide guidance on. What the Supervisor does once he has it, is anybody's guess, but I would think as a private citizen and this being his private blog, he could post it here. I don't think it would be right for him to post it unilaterially on the official Town web site, but that's just my view.

Anonymous said...

If this is Feiner's "private blog," as Kolesar says, shouldn't Feiner stop linking it to the Town's official website? Shouldn't Feiner stop mentioning it on all of his global e-mails?

Wouldn't it be better ethically for Feiner to move his "private blog" to his campaign website? Otherwise, it sure looks like he's using town tax dollars to support his "private blog" and thereby promote himself politically.

herb Rosenberg said...

I'm sure that I am making a mistake in answering the typically uninformed and hostile comment made by the first blogger about SCOBA. But I will do it anyway.

No, Feiner didn't set up SCOBA so that it didn't have to comply with open meeting laws. Feiner formed SCOBA to make an important study, and the Town Council wanted no part of it, having pledged their allegance to those who opposed such a study.

At the beginning I, as chair, invited all who wanted to come to our meetings to come. One person came. I then wrote to twenty-five civic associations and community organizations to invite their comments and suggestions. One answered, approving what we were doing. I was told that the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations made a decision to boycott SCOBA. Certainly none answered my letter.

Our meetings were open. Nobody came. It is true that after the rebuff by the CGCA I stopped publkicizing them. There was no point. They trashed SCOBA at every opportunity and there was a very good reason for them to do it. They knew before we did that what SCOBA would find would undercut the arguments that their chief spokesperson was making.

I know nothing about the Land Use Committee, but I can see that those who want everything their way will trash that committee as well.

Anonymous said...

Rosenberg started off as chair of SCOBA by saying that presidents of unincorporated area civic associations could not be on the committee because they were "biased."

No wonder the town council kept their distance from SCOBA. With someone as belligerent as that in charge, it was doomed to fail.

In fact, Rosenberg himself could not have been more biased.

Before becoming SCOBA chair, he had tried unsuccessfully to intervene on behalf of the villages in support of the town's position that the town was right in charging only unincorporated area taxpayers for public parks that are available for use townwide. Since he wasn't allowed to intervene, Feiner let him file affidavits in support of his tortured views of the law.

Not surprisingly, Rosenberg produced a report that essentially expanded on his views -- but those are views which, so far, no court has ever accepted.

The report itself is also replete with sloppy errors of fact, errors of law and lots of irrelevancies -- all of which might have been avoided if someone other than Rosenberg had been put in charge.

Anonymous said...

Here comes Edgemont civic leaders starting another war in Greenburgh. When will they stop being such crazy people. Because they have money, they think that they can rule the whole town. Yes they do have four members of the board in their hip pockets, as one blogger said some time ago,I do hope when election time comes arround you do the right thing in voting for Feiner Morgan Brown and Beville .this way maybe greenburgh will get back to normal..

Anonymous said...

Not sure I understand the attack on Edgemont's civic leaders.

One thing I do know for sure though. A vote for Feiner, Morgan, Brown and Valhalla School Board member Beville is a vote to give back to Valhalla schools the $6.5 million in town revenues that the state comptroller earlier this year said Feiner had illegally given away.

%6.5 million can keep our taxes low and still buy a lot of town-wide services.

Anonymous said...

If the comptrollers office said no dice on these money no one can give Valhalla the money. So stop making stories, But you seem to forget the WHOLE board voted to give Valhalla the money a few months back so stop pointing the finger to Feiner alone.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:29 is wrong. The four town council members voted to cancel the Valhalla grant after the state comptroller said no dice. Only Feiner voted no.

All four town council members submitted a report to the state compotroler saying they'd wait until the state comptroller completed its audit of Valhalla before considering next steps to take, including getting all or some of the money back.

The Town council said in that same report that it was concerned that state comptroller said Feiner had no documentation to support the town's rationale for making the gift in the first place.

Feiner dissented from that report and filed his own report saying he intended to renegotiate to find another way to give Valhalla the money.

Valhalla has now re-submitted its requests to the town as if the state comptroller's report had never been issued. Feiner's already given his support. If his "team" is elected, we can all kiss that money goodbye.

Can't imagine that village taxpayers would want that. Can't imagine that unincorporated area taxpayers outside of Valhalla school district would want that either.

hal samis said...

Coming soon to a blog near you.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty took a big fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Humpty should spend more time this summer jogging between The Bite, Lattanzi's, Linda Jean's and the Black Dog.

Anonymous said...

Boy youre already building castles in the sky as far as the money to valhalla goes. The council did vote to give Valhalla the money.Check the meeting and you will see that the monies that were left was granted by all.

Herb Rosenberg said...

As I said, it was a mistake to write to correct a prior blogger, and it is a mistake again, I am sure. I wrote at 5:08.

I wrote about the nature of SCOBA's meetings and its invitation to others to be involved. Mr. 5:26, who is almost certainly Bernstein, goes into his familiar attack about his ojections to SCOBA, which he had from its very birth. I won't answer -- it is futile to do so -- except for one point.

Mr. 5:26 says that "Rosenberg produced a report that essentially expanded on his views."

Aside from the fact that the SCOBA Report doesn't state views, the draft Report (to which the entire SCOBA committee had input) was revised by Mike Sigal and Jack Mclaughlin in addition to myself. It must be, therefore, that Mr. 5:26's slurs apply to Mike and Jack as well. I'm sure they will appreciate it.

And I promise, I won't be tempted to write again.

Anonymous said...

To the first anonymous....
if there is no committee, than dept heads and employees don't have to attend anymore.

hal samis said...

Anonymous at 7:05,

What has the Town Council (Bass, Barnes, Juettner, Sheehan) done to implement the State Comptroller's "ruling" that the $6.5 million was illegal?

Apparently you feel that there is no quesion that it should be returned.

And that if Feiner, Brown and Morgan get elected the Town will not seek to get the money back.

It has been at least three months that the Town Council could have done something other than talk.
Is the matter in litigation? Has a collection Agency been retained?
Is there correspondence requesting the return the money? What has the Town Comptroller been doing?
Does the Town Council have a clue?
Where's the Resolution to initiate collection measures?

Even if the Town Board changes in November, there is still half of July and all of August, September, October, November and December for the Town Council to get the money back before the January 2008 swearing in of new terms.

If you're so sure of your conclusion, why not focus your energy instead on the gang that is collecting their Town paychecks and can do something?
Nothing being done now is the same nothing next year; it doesn't matter who sits in the seats.

Just three votes. Today!

After all, as you point out $6.5 million can keep taxes low and buy a lot of services. Shouldn't that be incentive enough for the Town Council to do SOMETHING. Talk is not cheap if the prize is really $6.5 million.

Anonymous said...

The focus is on the election again. Yes Samis is right ,What Have Bas,Barnes,Sheehan and JUettner done to retrieve the monies, NOTHING. The reason is dirty politics. THis group is the most vindictive group that we have had in Greenburgh. Sheehan has seen to it that Feiner looks bad no matter what he says or does. Sheehan be careful what goes arround comes arround.Many rulers stronger than you have fallen.

Anonymous said...

Samis evidently didn't read the town council's report to the state comptroller. He also apparently didn't bother to read the newspaper coverage of it either.

Had Samis done his homework, he would know that the town council has said it is awaiting results of the audit that the state comptroller is conducting of the Valhalla schools to see how the town's money had been spent.

The audit is of critical importance because it may turn out that the town's ability to get back some or all of the money may turn on how that money was spent.

For example, the town should be able to get back all money disbursed to the private Valhalla Schools Foundation -- just as the state comptroller originally recommended -- but until the audit is completed, we don't know how much money that was.

The town should also get able to get back money spent on school salaries if the person(s) who received such money did not devote more than 50% of his or her working time to looking after the money that the town was allocating. Again, the state comptroller's audit will be able to identify how much money that might be.

Once the audit is complete, the town board can review its options, just as it said it would.

To jump the gun, as Samis suggests, without knowing all the facts, would be reckless and irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:59 is wrong. Again. The State Comptroller said that the Town can get the money back. He said nothing about how the money was spent by Valhalla., and any audit he is doing of the Valhalla school District has nothin to do with Greenburgh's rights to get its money back.

Anonymous said...

Whatever meetings are held in Greenburgh should be made public to the residents. How else can one express their ideas as to what is going on . Meetings behind closed doors are always a failure .

Anonymous said...

Since Sheehan has taken over the board a lot of things have been taken place behind closed doors. The department heads that attend these meetings are at fault for not letting the residents know of what is going on. The supervisor is not allowed to attend also At Sheehan's request.Samis cannot attend also. Sheehan must know that what he is doing is against the law,but the department heads should have known better since they have worked here in Greenburgh longer than the council.What wrong doings have they been planning. Dishonesty has not been tolerated in any government. Step down please before charges are brought against you.We may see you on the corner selling pencils.Sheehan pencils a not really used as they were one time,so I think you won't make out.

Michael Kolesar said...

Dear Anonymous 7/12 4:37 PM,

It looks like we agree on something. Yes, in my view this link on the Town's official web site, which is paid for by tax dollars should be removed.

I would post the following questions, if it stays. What are the criteria for adding links to the Town's web site? Who approves / exercises oversight? What kind of content may be linked (adult themed?)? May other candidates link their web site, if they have one?

While I believe that this web site has a useful purpose in promoting discussion about issues concerning the Town or other issues, as a "private" site it doesn't belong on the Town's site. Newspapers and other forms of media also serve this purpose. I also wouldn't have a problem with a Town sponsored site, altough I would not permit "Anonymous" postings. If someone is going to say some negative personal things about someone, at least have the backbone to identify yourself, or else say them in private.

There is an interesting quote in today's New York Times from the dairies of the late lady Bird Johnson. It refers to an exchange between President Johnson and then minority leader Everett Dirkson. Referring to Dirkson it reads:

" He said 'You don't mind if we denounce you once in awhile, do you, Lyndon? You can explain that better than when someone on your own side of the aisle denounces you...' Lyndon went on to give me advice about how he, Lyndon, had operated as minority leader under Eisenhower: 'I announced in the beginning that I did not believe in the past policies, that the business of the opposition was to oppose, that I [Johnson] was going to be with the president every time I could, when I thought what he was doing was in the best interest of the country. And I was going to oppose him, with dignity, when I felt his policies were not going to produce the best for the country. But I wasn't going to say ugly things about him, nor his wife, nor about his dog, nor his grandchildren.'"

Where has dignity gone on this web site?

Anonymous said...

The land use committee should be reorganized after the election. Thee chair of the planning board should be appointed chair of this board. Fran McLaughlin does a great job. she is not Francis.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Kolesar:

Do you not see a problem with four members of the town board conspiring with two non-elected officials to assist Edgemont in succeeding from the Greenburgh community in private discussions? Bass making promises of favors that he has no right to make; Sheehan issuing threats if disclosure is made……this is good government?

Aside from clear violations of not only the letter but the intent of the open meetings laws, is this the "leadership" that we should expect from the elected officials? Is this as good as it gets?

I think it is disgraceful, and the four of them have an awful amount of explaining to do to the taxpayers.

Michael Kolesar said...

Dear Anonymous 7/15 11:36PM,

I would welcome an exchange on the topic that you have raised (feel free to contact me privately). I haven't commented one way or another yet, as I haven't taken the time to read first hand the material that is publily available and I would rather not speculate.

Second, comments on that subject belong under another topic.

Aren't you troubled by the proposed Ethics Law paragraph 570-4 (B)? Read this very carefully.

As I read this, if I am an employee and a taxpayer of the Town and I spot waste, it would be a violation for me to use "any" (non-confidential) information to further my interest in eliminating / reducing wasteful spending. Holy Cow !!!

Anonymous said...

Come on Mike give us your opinion on the recent scandal. Yes much more wor must be done with the ethics board .They should hire someone who knows how to handle corporate problems to implemented into ethic laws for Greenburgh. The way the law is starting to read as Wed. night meeting is not what should be voted on,they should wait until experts take a good look at what was written.

Anonymous said...

After this latest debacco with the four council members and two citizens of Edgemont ,I agree that all meetings should be opened to the public. We as residents have the right to know where our money is going. Deals should not be made behind closed doors that will have an impact on the entire Town.

Anonymous said...

The ethics board is trying to do their best, but listening to what was said at the meeting they need a lot of HELP. If they cannot do the job correctly they should say so. So far I give the an F on their report card.

Michael Kolesar said...

Dear Anonymous 7/20 10:12 AM,

In a nutshell, very, very troubling.

On numerous occasions now the current Board has shown the public that it doesn't care about the public and the pubic's point of view. The way this Board operates, public hearings are a show and just something that has to be done because the law requires it, but as to really listening -- forget about it.

Last December, for example, I raised reasonable serious questions on the Town budget and the use of the Town's fund balance and was dismissed. Not one member of the Board choose to follow up, even in private. At that same meeting, Hal Samis raised reasonable questions about the allocation of certain common expenses into the library budget. Again, no action.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Sheehan wanted to call a "special" meeting of the Town Board, so the Town Board could adopt whatever re an ethics law. This despite the fact that their were many individuals present and who spoke who were not the "normal" activists. They were raising fair and legitimate issues. But members of the Board aren't interested.

Last September, I raised questions about the Verizon contact. Mr. Sheehan wanted no part of it and was "hell bent" to get it done that night, even while he and the other Board members weren't ready to proceed and left the public sitting on their hands for well over an hour in recess (I was there and it was disgraceful and disrespectful of the public and their time. If you are not ready, hold it over and do the correct work in due course.)

Unfortunately, I don't think the Town government has hit the bottom of the barrel yet. Not too optimistic right now. Too bad Town Council terms aren't two years like they are in most of the Villages or in the US House of Representatives.