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Letters to the Editor

Town of Orchard Park Downsizing and the Open Meetings Law “Con”
By Ronald D. Stadelmaier
Sep 8, 2009, 08:55
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As many folks are aware, citizens (like myself) in the Town of Orchard Park have an important decision to make regarding downsizing our Town Board from five members to three.

In the ongoing downsizing debate, whether here or in other Towns and Villages, there are obviously numerous pros and cons on both sides of the issue.

The duty for us “unsophisticated” Town citizens, as we are often called in OP by our Town’s elected and appointed officials, is to carefully consider them, weigh them, and cast an educated, thoughtful vote – with a keen eye and ear to not only what’s said, but what is not said.

Well, perhaps I can help dispel with one of the more popular “cons” (no pun intended) to downsizing.

I’d like to refer to the recent article from a Mr. Orffeo, our Town Planning Coordinator, OP Conservative Party Chairman, and eager mouthpiece and advocate for our Town government’s status quo, which he entitled “The Downside to Downsizing.”

In his article, he presented numerous editorials and talking points against downsizing our Town Board – in particular, a lengthy, detailed seven-paragraph argument that, with downsizing, “there are Open Meetings Law problems.”

Well, let me tell you something – I couldn’t agree more.

You betcha there’s Open Meetings Law problems. Big ones.

But I’m not referring to a future 3 member Board – but to our current Town Board – and specifically the 4 council members representing our Town’s famous “Board majority” – and the many Board majorities before them – which, of course, many of these same politicians and their supporting political appointees were part and parcel.

I refer to the official Town yacht that these folks steer and command - with a seasoned four councilperson crew, a caustic and Teflon Town attorney entrenched at the helm, and co-starring our “status quo” Planning Coordinator as Gilligan. And lurking in the wings, but just under the radar, there is a further entrenched in-step “farm system” - four unopposed Orchard Park Village trustees and mayor, and a convenient structure of powerful Town Boards and Committees, each controlled almost exclusively by a cast of appointed friendly cronies and well-financed local minor-league majority party officers and committeemen.

And, of course, there’s that inexperienced, unwelcome, out-of-step, evil, and illegitimate-to-this-day Town Supervisor, who is maliciously and ceremoniously thrown overboard at every available opportunity.

Make no mistake – I’m not speaking of isolated poor behavior here – but rather an ingrained culture of purposeful, arrogant, self-serving, “back room” deception.

Classic Orwell “doublethink.”

In other words, in Orchard Park , whether we have a five member Board or three, or four councilpersons or two – what the hell’s the difference? They trashed the Open Meetings Law then, and they trash it now – in both body and spirit.

There is no “Town Board” in Orchard Park – we have our own little politburo.

So, we dare to ask, where, when and how does this quorum secretly meet to carry out their predetermined agenda disguised the people’s business? On the yacht? In a secret bunker? Do they have scheduled weekly conference calls? Do they e-mail or instant message themselves to death? Are they clairvoyant? Do they call each other “comrade?

It’s amazing how they’re always spontaneously on the same page, and how many detailed surprise decisions and resolutions seem to fall from thin air – or perhaps are just immaculately conceived. It’s all a sad but ongoing joke among citizens in our Town and Village.

Or is it simply that just one or two of our fine comrades call all the shots, and the rest of them just follow?

This entrenched gang of “status quo” have also repeatedly warned citizens to be fearful of the prospect of the dreaded “Three Men in a Room.” Ha! In the Town of Orchard Park, we’ve had at least 2 men and a Nanny for years!

Then, of course, there’s the recent “oversights” and “misunderstandings” regarding routine Town protocol - like following proper procedures for Executive Sessions, or whether a request for a special use exception rezoning really needs a public hearing, or forgetting to require expensive hired outside council to prepare and present a fee and retainer arrangement in order to perform defense for the Yates Barn lawsuit.

Those darn pesky details….‘sounds like the quality of professional advice we receive from our Town’s Teflon legal beagle might be on the wane.

Hey, candidates for Orchard Park Town Supervisor and Councilman, are you listening to this? Do any of you endorse or condone this culture of swill? Or just more “part and parcel” perhaps?

Proof, you ask? Anyone can discover and learn about this status quo culture for themselves – just by reviewing our Town Board meeting minutes, say, from our previous Supervisor’s first term in 1998 to the present. You’ll find plenty of examples.

Or, us simple “unsophisticated” citizens can just watch and pay a little attention.

Or, perhaps, folks might be interested in the how and why the Sept 23, 2009 downsizing vote and venue were purposely manipulated to keep people away – how numerous open dates to utilize the Orchard Park High School facilities for the vote were available but ignored – how designation of the cramped basement of Town Hall was the real first choice as the voting venue – how voting hours were restricted - how we were all lied to - and who was yet again thrown overboard.

Or, most recently, a simple observation as to the time and effort to “circle the wagons” at the “special” Sept 2, 2009 Town Board Meeting (held in the OP Middle School auditorium, no less) just might do – complete with irrelevant blow-hard pontifications and testimonials from biased representatives of the New York State Association of Towns – distribution of a mysterious, legal-sized, double-sided anti-downsizing flyer that no one would take responsibility for or ownership of - and only allowing single questions from residents– but no debate allowed.

I’ll bet it took a lot of coordination – maybe even an “informal, off the record” meeting or two.

Perhaps a Town politburo of 3 might just force some degree of compliance and transparency.

Sorry, Mr. Orffeo, but your “Open Meetings Law” argument on behalf of your "status quo" has sprung a huge leak.

‘How ‘bout your Town or Village, folks? ‘Sound familiar?

We reap what we sow, don’t we.

Ronald D. Stadelmaier

Town of Orchard Park, NY

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