Friday, August 10, 2018


Welcome to Everything Croton, a collection of all things Croton--our history, our homes, our issues, our businesses, our schools--in short, EVERYTHING CROTON. 


To the Editor:

Mr. Turner’s objections to the Croton Board of Trustees’ policy of not responding to residents (The Gazette, week of July 12/18) have validity, but he is a bit unfair to the Croton trustees.

One of the first acts of the new Board of Trustees was to institute new rules to limit government transparency and restrict citizen speech. The rules which Mr. Turner encountered have been in effect since January and are actually even more restrictive than Mr. Turner believes.

Some changes were meant to send a signal to residents that they were no longer welcome, such as changing the name from “Public Participation” to “Public Comment.” In other words, your Croton elected officials will tolerate sitting there for a few minutes while they ignore you and type on their computers (what they are typing during Board meetings is a matter for another day).

Other changes were meant to prevent residents from being given an opportunity to speak in the first place, such as Article V which allows for items to be introduced and voted on without the public even knowing till after the vote is taken.

For 120 years, Croton residents could go to a village Board of Trustees meeting and address their concerns to one or more of the elected trustees. That changed in January 2018 when the newly-elected Croton trustees decided that much like a medieval king, they are not to be addressed directly by their subjects. 
Article IX prohibits residents of Croton from addressing their elected officials directly. Rather, a resident must only address the Board as an entity. Article IX(h) is not constitutional, but concern for free speech is not high on the agenda in Croton nowadays and that attitude is not limited to the Board of Trustees.
Mr. Turner is not entirely correct in implying that it is not possible to get a response from our village trustees. He is correct that as a matter of official municipal policy the residents of Croton are not going to get a response.    
However, this does not prevent Mr. Turner from engaging in dialogue and getting the response he is seeking. The trustees have regular Croton Dem fundraising events and they will speak with you for the modest price of a campaign contribution.

This is New York, and you gotta pay to play.

The Village of Croton is not the only government entity which has shied away from the transparency of televised citizen questions. The Croton Harmon school district also prohibits questioning the board at televised meetings, and instead you must patronize the Black Cow at those times when the Board of Education holds regularly scheduled meetings there.

At least the Croton-Harmon school board has a written Q&A section on their web page, but this practice of requiring citizens to patronize a private retail establishment (with or without a “contribution” requirement) is not transparent; governmental creation of (ostensibly public) forums subject to private control is a growing problem across the nation.

Unfortunately, nowadays many of our fellow citizens in New York are less concerned with good government than with partisan advantage. The policy of the Croton Board of Trustees to not engage with residents at official public meetings but rather to nudge them into attending Croton Dem events in order to get a response is here to stay.

--Paul Steinberg, Croton-on-Hudson