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Ask questions, demand government answers

In recent years, Niagara County's citizens have slowly been taken out of our ability to participate in what should be our government.

In December 2009, with no prior notice, general welfare public comment was shifted from an early time in Legislature meetings to after adjournment. Given the political proclivities of members to slow proceedings for political caucus and committee meetings, these time delays have successfully discouraged citizen participation. Strangely, the State Committee on Open Government has seen no problem with this obvious tactic. Figuratively, the people have been relegated to the back of the bus.

For many years we had Lockport Cable TV's open forum as Tom Christy's Legislative Journal. In 2008, with political rumors abounding, that program was summarily eliminated.

Today, our world turns on information. In recognition of that fact, the state has expanded our right to know more of local governments. As of February, municipalities, must publicize more detailed information about the content of upcoming meetings. As of the County Legislature's Feb. 21 and March 6 meetings, the full text of proposed resolutions has been on the Web pages following the Agenda listing.

However, there is still an ability to overlook what should be essentials. Resolutions IL-007-12 and AD-004-12 call for lobbying services for six months from each of two firms, at a cost of $5,000 each per month. There should be a statement requiring a monthly public accounting for such expenditures. As the latter resolution notes a continuation of a previous contract, it would seem reasonable to require a public update of current results.

A series of public works resolutions PW-015-12 through PW-034-12 are for the purpose of allowing private entities the use of certain county park properties. There is no mention of any financial requirement, other than the Legislature chairman, with legal oversight, shall be the responsible party to conclude arrangements. It would seem that particular detail should be in the resolutions; otherwise the Legislature is voting the equivalent of a blank check.

The county website, under Legislature heading, provides easy email access to your legislator. Just click on the name, in light type face under their individual information for an email form. Ask questions. After all they are supposed to be our servants.

Donald G. Hobel

North Tonawanda