How do you define "state mandate" to a group of little boys?
Kenmore Village Attorney Daniel F. Novak didn't miss a beat Tuesday in explaining: "You've gotta do it."
Village officials found themselves trying to translate bureaucratese into elementary school-level English to more than a dozen members of Webelos Pack 286 from Brighton Community Church. They attended the board's work session to earn a badge in citizenship.
Later, at the regular meeting, Mayor John W. Beaumont invited some of the high school-age students there for credit in their government class to play the roles of the Village Board. Like the real deal, the teens sailed through the agenda in minutes.
But explaining governmental operations to the younger group proved more challenging.
In describing what takes place during a meeting, Beaumont mentioned sometimes-private discussions among lawmakers with the village attorney present -- known as executive sessions.
"You always have to have an attorney. You kids will learn this as you go through life," Beaumont said. Only the adults in the room, which included many of the Scouts' parents, caught that one.
On the agenda was the Building Department's report for 2006, chock full of facts and figures about permits, inspections and fees collected.
Explaining that department's importance, Beaumont said its job is "to ensure everyone's home looks good."
Some village officials were caught off guard when Beaumont asked if they had anything to say.
Police Chief Carl J. LaCorte used the opportunity to voice some law enforcement and familial pride in this week's arrest of the Bike Path Rapist suspect.
"My brother [Detective Lt. Joseph A. LaCorte] is a police officer in Amherst, and he headed up that task force and was very much responsible for the arrest," the chief said.
Now back to that state mandate.
Novak said the state now requires members of municipal planning and zoning boards of appeals, who are unpaid volunteers, to receive four hours of training annually.
"We are going to have to investigate it," Novak said. Alternatives include video training, he added.
The work session's business concluded, the mayor welcomed questions.
One youngster asked about the 19 portraits hanging on the wall behind the mayor's desk. "There's you," another boy said, before the mayor could explain they were of him and his predecessors.
"Do these requests get sent to the governor?" a boy asked about the agenda items.
No, the boy was told.
"Usually the governor sends us a note," the mayor said.
"This is the lowest part of government," Beaumont said of the Village Board. "Closest to the people."
And with the Webelos and their parents crowding the mayor's office and spilling into the anteroom, they couldn't have gotten any closer.