Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No Public at Public Hearing

Last night, Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency held a public hearing about the Brownfield Opportunity Area grant application they're preparing, and no one from the public showed up. Tom Casey has the story in today's Register-Star: "City seeks input for brownfield grant app."  

HCDPA executive director Sheena Salvino, grant writer John Duchessi, and TGW consultant Bill Roehr hosted the hearing that no one attended, and Roehr is quoted by Casey bemoaning the public's apparent lack of interest. Lack of public notice not lack of interest seems the more likely explanation. The hearing did not appear in Ellen Thurston's exhaustively comprehensive list of meetings and events, and a search of the newly redesigned online version of the Register-Star discovered no announcement of the hearing. Apparently it only appeared buried in the classified section of the Register-Star's print version. 

Duchessi says the grant proposal will be available for public review, starting tomorrow, September 27, at City Hall and at the Hudson Area Library. He also indicated that HCDPA plans to schedule another public meeting to get ideas and suggestions from the community.


  1. I phoned Roehr twice last week. I have a lot of questions, but he's very hard to catch. Naturally, he's also in the position of seeing anyone calling him as a potential competitor, so it's not the same as making contact with an official.

    I would have made any effort to attend that meeting to collar him, but I did not anticipate the agenda.

    So now I'll have to try and reach him by phone again.

  2. Public hearings and public comment periods are usually only held because they are required.

    When they're not advertised beforehand, agencies get themselves in trouble.

    I've got a lot of problems with this particular grant and I've made a lot of noise about it. I phoned the grant-writer himself to ask questions he may not have wanted to answer.

    Did I make too much noise for someone's comfort? I had a huge back-and-forth with several aldermen about this and feathers flew.

    Was the public just hoodwinked?

  3. I just sent an email to the HDC inquiring if they know whether the hearing was a requirement of the grant.

    The email was returned to me through Mailer-Daemon as undeliverable.

    (Yes, I've rechecked the address about 20 times.)

    Everything about this place is like a banana republic.


  4. I'm just off the phone with HDCPA director Sheena Salvino. (That agency will be the Lead Agency on this brownfields grant.)

    She acknowledged that the HDCPA was required to hold the hearing, but supposed that a single notice in the print edition of the Register Star's classified section was sufficient.

    When she robotically repeated that the HDCPA was "very interested in public feedback," I told her that we both knew that the minimum was exercised in order to alert the public. She would not agree.

    I informed her that the brownfields issue was a contentious one, and that this week alone a giant email argument (private) broke out about brownfield grant requirements between several aldermen and members of the public.

    When I told her she'd best be careful lest the people think she was a total cynical for exercising minimal notice for the hearing WHILE AT THE SAME TIME repeating the claim that her quasi-governmental organization is "very interested" in public feedback, she became exasperated.

    "Am I supposed to hold the hand of individuals and make them interested?," she asked. Then she repeated that it was "not [her] responsibility" to do more than she had done.

    After which she returned to the mantra that she was "very interested in public feedback."

    I finally had enough of her evasiveness, called her a cynic, and then we hung up on one another.

    I did learn one thing though, that it's not impossible that another hearing will be held to make up for "last night's poor attendance." (Notice that it would have been due to our failure to attend the hearing rather than their minimal announcement of it.)

    Never mind all that if there's a second opportunity. In that case we'll allow them the illusion that it was our own apathy that kept us from attending.

    PLEASE, can we all request another hearing. And then let's attend it and show that we do care about Hudson and about our waterfront.

    We have an additional interest in demanding this in order to send a message to anyone who'll listen: we want to put an end to dirty tricks, and to the old way of doing business in Hudson.

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  6. Word has it that Sheena Salvino has just agreed to another public hearing.

    The HDC number is 751-1044, where you can either verify the claim or thank her for reconsidering.

  7. I've just received a very kind email reply from Sheena Salvino who was genuinely apologetic about not having done a better job of alerting the public to the hearing.

    (She is replying to me because I emailed to ask her about it very early this morning.)

    She has confirmed that the HDCPA will be holding "a second meeting," the date to be determined a little later.

    I replied with great thanks, saying that the willingness shown to hold "a second meeting" was proof enough that there were no sneaky intentions. Anyway, if the meeting will be as good as a hearing then there's no harm in the end if it took us a couple of tries to iron it out.

    I applaud Ms. Salvino's rapid response and show of good faith.

    The draft document will also now be viewable online, while a hardcopy can still be seen at City Hall.