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Niagara County denied open government

Niagara County was an appropriate location for Robert Freeman, the executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, to provide a presentation on the subject May 19. However, for all the existing laws and rules designed to keep government information available, clever politicians have managed to find ways to discourage public involvement.

Immediately following the 2009 Niagara County Legislature election, general public comment within a legislative session was suddenly relegated to after adjournment. This change was not mentioned before election.

There is no full agenda provided prior to Legislature sessions, only a list of proposed resolutions. Public comment within a meeting is allowed, but is restricted to resolution items only. Often there are late resolutions where the text is not available to the public until after Legislature action.

That there are written Legislature Rules of Order is little known. Therefore, the Order of Business is frequently "adjusted." Sessions are interrupted with timeout allowed for off-floor committee meetings and political caucuses. This serves to stretch out such sessions so that a meeting might go on until 10 p.m. If one wishes to address welfare of the county issues, you must sign in before 7 p.m.

The Order of Business also requires that there should be committee reports. From attending many meetings, I do not recall any such reports.

Then there is the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. This is a less-visible appointed legislature/taxing authority where the governing board meets once a month, at 6311 Inducon Corporate Drive, at 9 a.m., generally the second Wednesday of a month. These are open meetings but set at an inconvenient time.

Here we have a body of nine individuals who have countywide power over all elected councils, school boards and even the legislators who put them in place.

Over many years of the agency's existence they have removed over a billion dollars of assessed value of properties from the tax rolls. Search the county website under budget to find the Property Exemption Report.

Donald G. Hobel

North Tonawanda


Milstein big supporter of Missions' fundraiser

Community Missions is pleased to announce the launch of our seventh annual major fundraising program. This program would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of Howard Milstein and Niagara Falls Redevelopment. We thank him for his continued support.

There have been many contributors over the years, but none has been more consistent than the donations by Howard Milstein and his staff at NFR and Niagara Falls Aviation. His sponsorship of this program has resulted in over $200,000 in donations over this six-year period.

It has resulted in Community Missions being able to feed over 390,769 individuals and sheltered 2,691 during this period, and over 100 agency events and community activities continue to be sponsored.

In a community where it's hard to raise donations, these numbers are meaningful dollars that would not be possible without all the generous donors, corporate citizens, businesses and community partners that so thoughtfully give to this agency.

Thank you, Mr. Milstein. We wish you well in your new position.

Robyn L. Krueger, executive director, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier Inc.

Niagara Falls