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

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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
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Decoding Village Agendas – August 22, 2016

Below is the latest installment of Decoding Village Agendas, an annotated guide to the agendas for Village meetings prepared by Trustee Ann Gallelli.  To subscribe, write her at: anngallelli@gmail.com

Dear neighbor, Here is the 334th installment of Decoding Village Agendas to keep Croton residents informed of the actions of the Village Board at their meetings. I continue to add recipients to this email update on agendas so you may be receiving it for the first time. I enjoy getting your feedback and hope to continue to hear from you. If you do not wish to receive these periodic email updates from me, please reply to this email and your name will be removed from the email list.
Ann Gallelli

Decoding Village Agendas –   August 22, 2016

Work Session of the Village Board

7: 30 p.m.

 (Open to Public and Televised)

 

 

  1. Discussion of creating a Village Towing Law that would strengthen enforcement for people who repeatedly fail to respond to parking summones issued for violations of parking orders, rules and regulations at the Croton-Harmon train station.  The proposed change to the law would authorize the Police Chief, in his discretion, to immobilize or tow vehicles, with three or more unanswered parking summons, located at any Village operated parking lot or from public streets.  Towing or immobilization would be at the owner’s expense.  There would be an additional $100. Administrative fee.
  2. Review of affordable housing ordinances passed by Westchester County municipalities and discussion of a potential affordable housing ordinance for the Village.  The Board will review the County’s proposed Model Ordinance.  This ordinance was proposed as part of the steps taken in response to the County settlement in the 2009 Affordable Housing lawsuit.  Several municipalities have passed their own versions of the Model Ordinance which the Board will review and discuss.  The ordinances to be reviewed and compared are from Hastings-on-Hudson, Town of New Castle, Town of North Salem, Town of Pound Ridge, Irvington and  Rye Brook.
  3. Discussion of increasing the starting salary rates of Village seasonal employees.   Under the standards that apply to a Village, non-exempt Village employees must be paid at least $7.25/hour.  Currently 11 part-time seasonal employees earn under $9/hour.  The cost of increasing these positions to $9/hour would be $1,021.50 annually. Currently 26 part-time employees get paid $10/hour up to $13.25.  50+ seasonal employees earn from $9/hour to $9.75/hour. If all seasonal employees earning less than $9.75 were brought to that level, the net increase would be $10.294.88. Most seasonal employees work in one of the following four capacities, Silver Lake lifeguards, Day Camp and Tiny Tots Camp, Gate attendants, DPW and Parks labor.

Trustee Pugh on Improving Transparency

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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