Of all the contrasts between the former board and this one, what stands out most is the decreasing level of community engagement. Maybe this is because open and accountable democracy is a thing of the past.
This was brought home vividly through last week’s hearings on the Local Board Plan and Draft Agreement with the Governing Body. The hearings were held away from the public eye in the local board offices with very few attending.
The contrast with the former board’s hearings couldn’t be greater. These were very public, held in the Ostend Hall, with dozens in the audience and a great deal on public interest.
It’s a similar story with Board meetings. I don’t think there were ever less than fifty attending the former board's public forum . Meetings lasted up to six hours as the Board openly debated the various items before it and made their decisions.
Now that all decisions are made in secret behind closed doors, Board meetings merely serve to rubber stamp them. No questions are asked, no debate takes place. Consequently, they last an hour, give or take.
Public forum is left to those with their hands out for cash. General interest has waned to almost nothing. Yet the Board continues to hold two meetings a month, doubling the cost to the ratepayer. Never mind, it means they get two ratepayer funded suppers a month instead of one.
Even the members are bored. It’s rare for them all to be at workshops or board meetings. Even the chairman couldn’t be bothered to turn up to the last one.
There are no member reports on the agenda. This could be because they have done nothing in the intervening two weeks, or they haven’t done anything they want the public to know about, or they can’t write, or all three. Minutes of the workshops have become nothing more than attendance registers with no public record of matters under discussion or items forwarded to board meetings for debate.
Maybe there aren’t any. After all this is the do nothing, say nothing Board. If they’re bored by democracy in action it’s no wonder the community thinks they’re all just one big yawn.