New York Coalition for Open Government condemns village of Philmont
Aliya Schneider reports for Columbia-Greene Media that on May 24 the New York Coalition for Open Government condemned the village of Philmont's decision to end online public access to town meetings. “The 3-2 vote taken by the Philmont Village board to eliminate online access to meetings is a terrible step backwards for open, transparent government and a tremendous disservice to the public,” New York Coalition for Open Government president Paul Wolf wrote in a letter to the village board. “Before taking any action to eliminate online access to meetings, a resolution should have been filed and put on the meeting agenda so the public could have been informed of the vote and provided an opportunity to be heard before the board voted.” Philmont Mayor Brian Johnson, one of the three votes to end online access to public meetings, refused to respond. “There is no reason I need to comment on that,” Johnson said May 24. Wolf said the receding of the pandemic is no reason to stop streaming public meetings. “The pandemic has brought forth widespread use of technology, which has made it easier for the public to learn about their local government,” he said. “As life begins to return to some sort of normalcy, we should not toss aside the new tools, which have increased public viewings of meetings. As we return to in-person meetings, there is no reason not to continue live streaming meetings by video and no reason not to post recordings of meetings online for the public to observe at any time.” Philmont Trustee Debra Gitterman, one of the votes in favor of streaming public meetings, said that future meetings will be streamed live through WGXC's website, wgxc.org. But any residents that want to comment at the public meetings face one of the strictest policies locally: They must email the village clerk before 3 p.m. the Friday before the second Monday of the month to speak in the Village Hall. The village does not allow any public comment at its workshop meetings. Read more about this story at HudsonValley360.com.