Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mastic Beach, Village petition public hearing

Last night, Mastic Beach Fire Department was filled with people from this community. It was the public hearing for the petition to incorporate Mastic Beach as a Village (New York state law defines what an incorporated village is--it's more like a town in England or in other states).

The hearing was led by Supervisor Mark Lesko, who has the responsiblity of deciding if the petition is valid and therefore if the proposal to become a village goes to the vote. The hearing was only about the validity of the petition: not about the merits, or not, of becoming a village. As anyone who reads this blog knows, the proposed village boundaries and expected costs have been publicised for a long time, not only at regular open meetings, but also on the website http://www.masticbeach.org/

I was impressed by how well the hearing was run. The Supervisor started by stating the rules--that he was there only to hear objections, that all objections must be in writing, and that the burden of proof was on the objector. He said that he had received objections from two people, in writing, prior to the hearing, and that these would be noted. Also that following the close of the hearing he would have, by law, ten days to respond to the petition.

I was impressed by how the objections were presented. One person stated several (nine?) objections, each one signed by a group of up-to eight people. They were well-prepared and obviously time had been spent in researching each one (though I thought one or two were rather frivolous). The majority were technical/procedural objections around boundaries, individual signatures on the petition, and points-of-law.

It took me back to a Students Union conference that I attended years ago in England. I was a bright young student, naive and excited to be representing my small-town college at a national conference. I had read the schedule and was looking forward to a highly-interesting debate and voting on many issues that were affecting "my" students. (My dad once said: "Students are the concience of the nation", which I thought was a very philosophical statement from my usually down-to-earth non-political Dad.)

But... we spent three days seeing every proposal brought down by a small minority of delegates who raised objections based on technicalities and Points of Order. We never reached any meaningful discussion. Every proposal was blocked, every change stalled--not on the merits of the proposals, but on the rules of play.

It left me with a thorough distaste for politics, and may well be the reason why becoming a lawyer never appealed.

The proposal for incorporation of Mastic Beach as a Village has grown from a group of good people who want to improve the quality-of-life in this community. It is inclusive of all residents--homeowners and renters alike--and is driven by a desire to change, not simply to play politics.

Supervisor Lesko closed the hearing after no more objections were raised. He must now review the petition, the objections, and make sure that the proposal for incorporation is valid.

We'll know the answer within ten days. I hope that we get to the "meaningful discussion", and have an opportunity to vote.

Whether or not this community becomes a Village, I'll continue doing my best to make my part of this beautiful place better.


Betty said...

Bravo Allison...well written. This discussion should absolutely be about the merits of incorporation or not incorporating, not about technicalities or frivolty. To those who claim they are concerned about "another layer of government", it is a valid point of discussion. But the blanket statement that it will raise taxes is a smokescreen to cause fear among residents. I just hope those who are concerned about their taxes will actually come to a meeting to HEAR for themselves how and why this can be done without a tax increase instead of listening to propaganda with no basis in fact.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the people behind the incorporation need to do more homework on where the funds are coming from for all the expenses needed to run a village. What happens when there is an unexpected expense that is not allocated in the budget? If you need to replenish the sand at the beach who is responsible? As a homeowner we all know about surprise expenses, you need to have your septic system worked on and it costs $1500.00. If you don't have an emergency fund you probably have to put on a charge card and pay high interest rates.What happens to the village if they aren't collecting enough taxes to cover their expenses. Any rational person knows that they will have to raise the taxes. Where else will they get the money from.

Alison said...

My understanding is that the detailed budget--as contrasted to the pre-vote pre-election outline budget--is a next step. So please, continue asking questions and pushing for information. I think this is the opportunity for the entire community to come together and work together for the good of everyone here. As a newcomer, I really don't understand (and don't really want to understand) all the personal spats that have happened in the past. Everyone that is doing good for this community is as far as I'm concerned, doing the right thing. Even if it's just making sure that their own garbage is picked up after a storm.