The nonprofit advocate Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has written to the NYS Adirondack Park Agency asking the agency to comply with its own public comment policy by inviting verbal public comment at the Agency’s remote October meeting. The webcast meeting takes place on Thursday Oct. 14.
The agency’s response to Adirondack Wild’s request, so far, has been that they would “take it into consideration.”
Governor Hochul has announced a Government Transparency Initiative which requires all New York State agencies to submit plans this month on how they will improve transparency. That order obviously includes the Adirondack Park Agency. Given that order, APA should be allowing the public to sign up and speak directly to the Adirondack Park Agency’s decision-makers during their regularly scheduled webcast meetings.
During the pandemic emergency the APA, like many agencies, has webcast its regularly scheduled monthly meetings. Throughout this period APA’s public comment opportunity has been limited to emails delivered to a general comment inbox. The public has not been allowed to verbally comment to the eleven members and executive staff who are the state’s planners and decision-makers affecting the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.
We are in the 19th month of the pandemic emergency. The opportunity for direct public comment during the webcast should be routine by now at the APA, as it is for many local town boards.
APA public comment policy, posted on the agency website, has been in existence since 2001. It states, in part:
“The Agency will provide approximately 10 minutes for public comment at or near the beginning of each open meeting of the Agency” for all items except those to be acted upon during the meeting, and “the Agency will provide a reasonable amount of time at the end of each open meeting of the Agency for public comment” for any item of concern to the APA, whether it was an action item or not.
APA should be welcoming and encouraging public comment about the Adirondack Park, not shying away from it. APA has skilled information technology staff to make it happen during a webcast. We are requesting that starting this month of October and in compliance with Governor Hochul’s transparency initiative the APA adhere to its own public comment policy. Invite those who wish to verbally comment the chance to sign up in advance, be unmuted and permitted to speak directly to APA’s decision-makers.
Hear! Hear! On the money. The State needs to move towards a more open policy on all meetings, and these meetings in particular.
Verbal public comments will only matter if they are actually listened to and taken into account by the board, which hasn’t happened in well over a decade and a half.
Verbal comments at APA meetings have been used as a stage for people fund raising for their cause, or grandstanding in some manner. Often they have been offensive in tone to the Commissioners. They are rarely enlightening. Also, they are never a back-and-forth conversation, just one-way talking.
Given this dynamic, I think written input, posted for review by anyone, is a better way to go. Reading the various points of view is fine. COVID is breaking records in the region now, so in person is unlikely.
Either way, what if you don’t have a computer and a connection. You can’t even comment on if you should be able to have verbal comments.
The pandemic has made people use the trail system a lot more. A lot of the trails need maintenance and need to be addressed, finances or manpower being a factor or not.
Thank you to the APA for amending its agenda and adhering to its public comment policy at today’s meeting, and hopefully ongoing at future meetings.