January 9, 2013

Editorial: City changes bear watching

The Plattsburgh Common Council is making some changes that could enhance discussion or curtail it, depending on how the new system is actually handled. We will be watching closely for any sign that public input is being restricted.

The big change is that the Common Council, which has met once a week for decades, will switch to meeting every other week.

If you have attended a regular council meeting, you know that discussion among councilors at the actual formal meeting is limited. Most of the talking takes place at the “work session” beforehand.

Even though both meetings are open to the public, we have never liked the words “work session” for any governmental body. They carry a connotation of not being open, of being just for members to work out details — and that turns away citizens, whether intentional or not.

If a public body has a quorum of members, it is holding a public meeting, and that is the law. You can call it a “work session,” but it is a meeting, and that is the term we prefer.

The city will switch to holding its full meeting one week and then a committee meeting the following week, with certain councilors in attendance. The committee meetings, to be held with department heads, will be open to the public and, we hope, held in Council Chambers so there is room for anyone who wants to attend.

We expect the city will continue to notify the media of all meetings involving councilors, as it has been doing, and we will list them in our Of Interest section.

We think it is a sound decision to set up this new meeting schedule. The public may actually hear more of the discussion that leads to councilor decisions — if anyone takes the initiative to attend. The Press-Republican will staff the meetings as often as possible, so we can share with readers what takes place.

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