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January 23, 2014

City of Plattsburgh changes layout of council chambers

PLATTSBURGH — For the first time in perhaps nearly a century, the City of Plattsburgh Common Council Chambers has a new look.

“It’s not a big thing, but we are thinking of new ways to serve the community, and this is one that hopefully will make a little difference,” said Mayor James Calnon, who won the election last fall and took over as mayor Jan. 1.

MOVED, ANGLED

Calnon’s new layout has moved the mayor’s table and the council tables along the south wall of the chambers, with the council tables angling in toward the mayor’s table in the middle.

The audience seats, about 45 of them, are now facing the entire council and staff.

The chambers used to feature the mayor at the head table, flanked by mayoral assistant Beth Carlin and City Attorney John Clute.

The two council tables extended from the mayor’s table on each side, creating a horseshoe-type shape with three councilors on each side.

Seating for the public was placed in the front of the room facing the horseshoe.

“I sat in that Ward 4 chair for seven years, and people got to know me by the back of my head,” Calnon said of his former council seat, which faced south, hiding his profile from those sitting behind him.

“I think it is important for citizens to be able to look the people who are voting, in the eyes, and have those voting be able to do the same to the people.”

ENCOURAGING INTERACTION

Calnon said he hopes the new format makes it easier for the council and the public to connect.

“City government is usually the closet level of government for people, and it gives them a chance to interact,” he said. “The way the chambers (arrangement) was set up before, I didn’t think it worked as well.

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