To: Caroline Town Board February 22, 2017
From: Crystal Van Gaasbeck
Re: Privilege of the Floor Policy, Proposed Extension of the South Hill Recreation Way
I want to briefly discuss the Privilege of the Floor Policy and how it relates to Caroline residents who spend part of the year out of town, the “up to three minutes” time limit on Privilige of the Floor comments, and then how this relates to landowner input about the proposed “Extension of the South Hill Recreation Way”.
At the beginning of February, Sandra Kenne, of 151 Middaugh Road, sent a letter via email to the Caroline Town Board, and asked to have the letter read at the next town board meeting. Supervisor Whitmer responded, and declined to read the letter, giving the reason, “Written documents are placed in the correspondence folder and reviewed by board members. They are not read aloud as the purpose of Privilege of the Floor is communication with the town council.” I believe, understandably, that this would make anyone feel like their voice was not heard or not valued by local government.
While privilege of the floor is an opportunity for citizens to communicate with the town council, it is also an opportunity for citizens to have their their voices heard by other members of the public, and to be documented in publicly available town meeting minutes.
If the Town board is considering policy decisions which involve taking residents’ land, privacy, and safety away, the Town Board can only expect input from people who would be directly affected by these policies. On issues like the proposed “Extension of the South Hill Recreation Way”, which threatens our livelihood, the “up to 3 minutes” time limit to address the board is extremely limiting. I feel insulted to only be given a total of 6 minutes each month, given that I speak for 3 minutes each at the Agenda Planning Meeting and the Town Board Business Meeting. For me and my family, the stakes are very high, and government officials have provided us with no other route to communicate our concerns in a way that assures us we have been heard.
It is not unfounded that we feel like our voices are not heard and are not valued. Recent letters to town officials written by my husband Scott, and the Coddington Land Stewards have gone unanswered. Landowners who live past Middaugh Road feel like their valid concerns are discounted, having been told not to worry because “the plan under consideration does not extend to Belle School Road” (letter from Mark Whitmer to Joe Scaglione, January 26, 2017) or “as your property is not adjacent to the proposed extension, you were not on my list” (letter from Mark Whitmer to Mary Beth O’Connor, January 26, 2017).
It is publicly known and acknowledged by government officials such as Ed Marx and Ric Dietric that the ultimate goal is to build a recreational road the entire length of the abandoned rail bed, not just to end it at my driveway and Ginny Miller & Mary Beth O’Connor’s front yard.
To make it clear to the Town Board, Mary Beth & Ginny do own land that would be directly affected by the current plans for a recreational road; they have used the abandoned rail corridor as their yard and parking area for over 15 years, and their home is closer to the railbed than any other house in the currently proposed 3 mile extension.
To discount the concerns of landowners along the future route of the recreational road, because the road isn’t planned there this year of next, while simultaneously considering the viewpoints of people who live nowhere near it, yet are in favor of it, is the height of hypocricy. We are all in this otgether.
If the Town of Caroline can not find time to listen and respond to the valid concerns of its constituents, then the Town does not have time to engage in highly controversial projects.
Crystal Van Gaasbeck