I write to support the candidacy of Brian Dunning and Nathy Yakaitis who are running for election to the Board of Trustees of the Village of Munsey Park.
Rita and I have been residents of the Village of Munsey Park for over 30 years. I had the honor of serving the Village from 1994 to 2006 as a Trustee and Deputy Mayor. I have continued my interest in Village affairs through the years and have attended meetings of the Board of Trustees from time to time.
When I was on the Board I always encouraged residents to attend meetings. During my tenure every meeting included a segment where residents were welcome to raise any issue they wanted. The criticisms that I have recently seen expressed in the press by some members of the Board and a few others about residents (especially former trustees) attending meetings are very troubling. Trustees should remember that as elected officials they are required to treat “all members of the public …with respect and in a professional manner ….” Instead of deriding participation at Board meetings by residents and former trustees, the Board should be celebrating the fact that those few who do attend meetings have the best interests of our community at heart and only have one goal: a better Munsey Park. The Board should welcome a frank and open discussion of all issues and, yes, as members of one big family, that means we will often disagree.
The problem is that we are not working together and from where I sit I see several serious issues that concern me that I believe have to be considered when you cast your ballot:
- Why is there a lack of public discussion at Board meetings and why is it that most decisions are presented to us as a fait accompli? Trustees, you are not siting in secret as a cooperative or condo board free to make decisions in the privacy of your basement without input from the public. The Open Meetings Law requires with certain specific exceptions public discussion of all issues. So why do the members of the Board criticize and demean residents who take the time to attend meetings? Trustees, you are there to protect us so why do you not insist on all decisions being made in public?
- Why does the Board go into Executive Session at virtually every meeting usually to discuss so-called “employment” matters? The Village has only five employees. The Open Meetings Law limits Executive Sessions to eight issues such as matters of public safety, criminal matters and investigations, litigation, civil service collective negotiations, sensitive matters regarding employees, employment related examinations, and matters relating real property and securities transactions.
- Under the Open Meetings Law minutes of the Executive Sessions are to be made available to the public within one week of the Executive Session. Why aren’t Trustees insisting that the Board post minutes of the Executive Sessions on the Village web page?
- Why has the Board which prides itself on fiscal conservativism not disclose what the Village paid in legal fees (which is believed to be in excess of $200,000 in taxpayer dollars) on its unsuccessful and some believe frivolous water tower litigation against the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District, which in itself cost the Water District taxpayers an additional $200, 000?
- Why does the Board pretend that it has kept taxes down when it has formulated a fee schedule that includes items such as $100 to prune a tree and $25 for each window replaced in a house? These taxes (which the Board calls “fees”) are posted on the Munsey Park web page.
- Why is the Board even considering a discontinuance of the Village’s maintenance of Village Trees in the Village Strip (a policy that has existed since the Village was founded) as part of an apparent attempt to shift the expense of maintaining these trees on to the shoulders of the abutting property owners? This is another tax which shouldn’t be tolerated.
I could highlight more issues but these are the issues that trouble me the most as a resident. These clear problems tell me why it’s time for a change.