In a recent post I took Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran to task for setting a public hearing without properly informing the public of what his proposal actually was.
At the City Council meeting Tuesday (5/3/22) Commissioner Moran issued a blistering statement claiming anyone who couldn’t find information about his proposed amendment to the city code was either “lazy or a social deviant intent on harming the community with…lies.”
Here is a video clip of Commissioner Moran speaking.
In this clip the Commissioner lists (inaccurately) the many ways the public has been informed about the language of his resolution on expanded drinking opportunities:
So Moran claims that besides listening to him read his proposal out loud that night at the meeting, citizens (who were not lazy or social deviants) could have read about the proposal in the newspaper or looked at it on the city website.
Let’s start with the claim that the “actual language has run in the paper on consecutive days.” Commissioner Moran is presumably referring to the fact that a notice of a public hearing on his proposal did appear on page 27 of the April 29-May 5 issue of Saratoga Today in the Classified section as required by law. Saratoga Today comes out once a week so it was not in the paper on two consecutive days or even in two consecutive issues (as were other notices of city public hearings). More importantly, however, was that the notice did not contain the actual language of the proposal as Moran claimed. Instead, it contained a brief summary stating that the legislation would create “exemptions to temporarily allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in designated public areas” without indicating what exemptions or what areas. “Any interested person” was informed that they could “inspect the Amendment in the office of the Commissioner of Accounts. ” Presumably this would have to happen between 9 and 5 on weekdays when City Hall was open. There was no indication that the actual wording of the proposal was available on the city website.
As it turns out the proposal is now on the city website but those looking for it have to know to go to the Public Hearings section of the city website not to the Council agenda or the Accounts Department page where one might first think to look. I for one have to say that after all these years of following City Council business I was not aware there even was a Public Hearing page until Commissioner Moran indicated at the meeting that this is where his proposal could be found. Lesson learned.
Here is the notice that appeared in the classified section of Saratoga Today.
How It Is Supposed to Be Done
The City Council has traditionally handled the setting of public hearings by including links in the agenda to the text of whatever is being proposed. This is nothing new. In fact, the current Mayor properly followed this procedure when he recently set a hearing to make changes in the city’s Uniform Development Ordinance.
This makes it simple for anyone checking the city agenda before Council meetings to easily see what there will be to comment on.
As I illustrate below, the normal method for setting a public hearing involves an announcement at a Council meeting of the hearing which includes a link to the text of whatever the purpose of the hearing is. It includes any relevant documents such as a resolution or, in this case, the proposed amendment to the city code.
In order to understand Commissioner Moran’s grossly inept handling of the public hearing on expanded drinking in the city, it is instructive to consider how the public hearings for changes to the Unified Development Ordinance were handled at the same meetings by Mayor Kim.
Here is an excerpt from the Mayor’s agenda for the April 19, 2022, City Council meeting when he set public hearings for the Unified Development Ordinance.
Note that the four public hearing items are underlined. This signifies that there is a link to a document with the actual language of the proposed changes to the UDO. Online, the user simply clicks on these to find out precisely what changes the hearing will address.
Now contrast this with the agenda for the Accounts Department at the same meeting.
Note that there is no black line under item #5. There was no link to the text of the changes being proposed by Commissioner Moran.
Now consider the Mayor’s agenda regarding the UDO proposals for the May 3, 2022, City Council meeting:
Here again, there is a link to the actual language under consideration for the UDO.
Now consider the Accounts Department agenda:
Again, there is no link anywhere on the agenda to the actual wording of Commissioner Moran’s proposal.
How Not to Do a Public Notice
Notices of Public Hearings on changes to local laws and ordinances are required by law to be published in designated newspapers.
Notice of Commissioner Moran’s proposal, as seen earlier in this post, while fulfilling the letter of the law, had no text and no information on how to view the proposal online.
Compare that with the notice for the UDO hearings which appeared in two consecutive editions of Saratoga Today. Most of the three columns on the page are the text of the proposed changes. This notice appeared in the April 22 and April 29 editions of Saratoga Today.
Learning From Mistakes?
Hopefully, Commissioner Moran will, in the future, be able to move forward and instead of berating the public, accept the responsibility as an elected official to more responsibly and transparently provide information to the public as he engages in the city’s business.