Brian Pugh: Village Board Should Honor Its Commitments to Open Government

opengov
Dear Neighbors:
This week, you may have received the Village’s new “quarterly newsletter,” which is taking the place of the Village’s monthly newsletter. The monthly newsletter was abruptly cancelled by Mayor Dr. Greg Schmidt of the Croton United Party without public discussion or input.
The termination of the monthly newsletter runs counter to the principles of public information and clearly contradicts the campaign promises of the Croton United Party.
“[We] will keep you informed, in a timely manner, regarding the actions your village board is taking in your name. We will institute a policy of proactive disclosure of public documents…We will also provide periodic public updates of the status of all significant issues affecting the village,” reads the Croton United Party web site.
How can that pledge be squared with the elimination of the Village’s monthly newsletter?
The cancellation of the monthly newsletter, which amounted to a few thousand dollars out of a Village budget of approximately $18 million, was ostensibly done in the name of economy.
Yet, Mayor Dr. Schmidt and his CUP colleagues did not feel similarly restrained by economy when they approved a payment of taxpayer dollars to their largest campaign donor for “reparations” for a claim that was denied by the Village’s insurer.
I hope that the majority on the Board will soon revisit the decision to cancel the monthly newsletter and act to ensure that the public gets the information that it deserves and which it was promised.
Sincerely,
Brian Pugh
Advertisements

Trustee Pugh on Improving Transparency

foia2016
To the Editor:
Last week, the US Freedom of Information Act turned 35.  In honor of this historic occasion, President Obama signed important transparency reforms into law and directed  federal agencies to work to make “release to one is a release to all”, under which a document requested by a member of the public is published online and made generally available, the presumptive standard under FOIA.
Similar reforms are also under consideration by the Village of Croton.  I have been encouraging the Village to adopt such a progressive policy since first learning of the federal agencies that implemented “release to one, release to all” in the summer of 2015.
The case for  “release to one, a release to all” includes:
1) Transparency—Publishing requested documents online gives the public a better idea of what their government is doing on the public’s behalf.
2) Efficiency—By publishing a requested document online, administrative staff avoids the need to answer future requests for the published document.
More recently, Mayor Greg Schmidt voiced his support for this approach at the April 18, 2016 Village Board meeting.  On June 27th, we held a public work session on adopting a policy of “release to one is a release to all”.
At that work session, members of the staff expressed concern about the administrative burden of “release to one, release to all”.  However, I believe that with modern information technology, such as the many services offered by Google (e.g. Google sites, Google groups, Google drive, etc.), these concerns can be addressed and a more proactive policy adopted at minimal expense or staff effort.
Sincerely,
Brian Pugh