- Burlington VT - Ward 4 and Ward 7

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NPA Meeting on Open Government

Well, that was interesting...

This was my second time facilitating a NPA meeting. By faciliate, I mean being the MC (Master of Ceremonies). We had a lot on our plate for the meeting, and my biggest goal going into it was to make sure we kept on schedule. For the first half of the meeting we were right on time. When we got to the first real topical exchange, it was the Disc Golf Course project in Leddy Park. This was a relative last-minute addition to the schedule, but obvuiosly important enough one to warrant an immediate discussion.


The Disc Golf Course in Leddy Park was initiated by the Parks and Rec Dept. along with the Parks and Rec Commission. The fact that there was No Public Notice of the meetings that led to the approval of the initiation of the project, was a glaring example of the need for open governemnt. To their credit, Representitives from Parks and Rec, as well as City Council, admitted a big mistake was made, and that they regretted it.


Nancy Powers approached me just before the meeting got underway and asked if she could speak first when it came time for the open forum on the Disc Golf issue. I agreed to let her speak first, but I soon regretted it once I realized how much time she was taking. I should have been more diligent in allowing time and preference. My bad. There were more than a few comments on the subject, but we eventually moved on to the Open Government Presentation.

Mayor Kiss opened the presentation by explaining his vision of the process of the committee, from it's inception to its conclusion, and to Burlington's overall commitment to transparent governing. Then I spoke.

To me, it seemed like a good time to be open, but more importantly candid, about what I thought of the process as an insider. Others, from what little I've heard, think it was inappropriate. I haven't heard what was inappropriate or to whom it seemed so, just a whiff of it at this point.

The first thing I pointed out was the selection process of the committee. Not very open (ouch!). The next thing I pointed out was that the meeting, the first meeting and the only meeting that was solely dedicated to public input, was, sadly, not posted on the city's website calendar of events and meetings. (Really? WTF?)

I went on at some length about the fact that the committe was limited by its temporary nature. I called many of the issues that didn't make the final list "Shot-Clock-Casualties". We simply didn't have enough time to get to everything that should have been addressed. To my amazement, some seemed opposed to ongoing oversight with regard to overall transparency, when all it would result in is reccomendations. 

Kurt Wright suggested that the NPAs take up the commitment to transparency by creating their own mechanism, a subcommitte for example, to address the issue. I must admit, it was a clever solution to a contentious issue. I agreed to it as a friendly ammendment to my resolution calling for the permanent committee. I knew it weakened the resoltion, but from reading the room, I though it was the best chance of getting something postive passed. Even with the friendly amendment, I couldn't help but notice that Paul Decelles still voted against it. Am I wrong?

A little later on a resolution was brought up by Michael Crane addressing the Disc Golf Course issue. This seemed to be the most contentious part of the meeting given the way city councilors and Parks & Rec representitives expressed their displeasure with the language and tone of the resolution. I'll admit the tone was a little harsh. I think the language in resolutions should be more civil than normal converstion or discussion, and this resolution was not. Michael's resolution did acurately express some of the neighbors frustration with what happened. In the end, it was agreed that we would table the resolution until next month, to allow for some time for City Council and the P&R commission to hold meetings and address the situation. It will also allow for recafting the language of the resolution.


Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2010 04:11  


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