Weekly Feature

2017-08-10 / Editorial

Town recordings promote transparency

Bee Editorial

At Monday night’s meeting, the Lancaster Town Board approved a resolution to have audio recordings made of all meetings, including State Environmental Quality Review meetings and work sessions, along with existing audio from meetings of the Planning, Zoning and Town boards.

The decision is a step in the right direction to promote a transparent, effective government that looks to keep the public informed at every level.

Town Board work sessions, in particular, can be a good way for the public to keep a lookout for what’s next regarding resolutions or big projects, as board members speak more freely and have more of a conversation than in regular meetings.

Having audio of work sessions is especially helpful considering the size of the actual room in which these meetings take place. There is enough space for maybe five to six people, but otherwise it’s a small boardroom with just enough space for the members themselves.

It’s not like the public can ask questions during the work session anyway. The time is usually reserved for board members to discuss upcoming resolutions or for companies or individuals to give a presentation to the board after calling to set up a time and date.

SEQR meeting recordings will also help keep the public informed about prospective building projects in the town.

During these meetings, the board, with the help of department heads, determines whether or not a build would have a significant environmental impact on the area, a crucial step in addition to working with the Zoning and Planning boards.

Not everyone can be at every single meeting involving a particular build, so being able to check in on how a SEQR meeting went for, say, the second day care along Walden Avenue, could help those following the process.

The only concern when it comes to recordings is how people will be able to identify who is speaking. Unless people go to meetings regularly, they may not audibly recognize who is who on the board, and if a resident comes up to speak to the board, the person sometimes doesn’t give his or her name for the record.

Residents could always look up minutes from the meeting and line it up with the audio, but the ease of this depends on how access will work for recordings. According to the resolution, a town employee will be trained to post audio on the town’s official website by Aug. 21. The town clerk will keep recordings on file for seven years.

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