By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Ken Walter is an example of citizens interacting with their government.
He is retired, but this husband of one, father of three and grandfather of four has plenty on his plate.
So how does he make a difference at the County Legislature?
Here’s his “tips and tricks”:
• Know when public comment is on the agenda (at the beginning or end of the agenda) and for how long you are allowed to speak.
• Research the issue.
• Organize and write out your comments.
• Speak, focused on the issue.
• Address the group as a whole.
• Do not enter into any personal attack on any individual. This will diminish any credibility for you and your cause.
• Always take the high road.
• The most important meetings at which to comment are worksessions on the local level and committees on the county level. Most decisions are finalized at these levels.
• Do not expect immediate results. The listeners have to have time to process the information.
• Advocate for what you believe will benefit the general good. Using the public forum to advocate for what will benefit you personally will only blow up in your face and reduce your effectiveness.
Still have questions?
Ken welcomes emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
County legislators themselves have a few words of wisdom for would-be participants, as well:
• “Start at your town boards,” suggests Legislator Cindy Gieger of Jeffersonville. “They’re really voting on issues that impact your neighborhood.
“Attend, listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”
• “I’d go on our website [www.co.sullivan.ny.us] and look at our agendas,” recommends Legislator Kathy LaBuda of Wurtsboro. “If there’s an issue of interest to you, come and have an impact.”
• “We’re not looking for people to be pains in the butt or put up stumbling blocks,” advises Legislator Scott Samuelson of White Lake. “Come in, observe for a while, then comment. People need to make sure they’re listening to who they put [into office] here.”