At the July 9, 2018 full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, members unanimously passed a Democratic resolution to improve outreach for citizen participation in volunteer boards and committees, overcoming Republican resistance at the June sessions.
The final amended form of the resolution, entitled “Resolution to strengthen outreach and participation in Dutchess County volunteer boards and committees,” requires the county to list the many volunteer boards and committees on the county website in a consistent manner and explain their purpose. It would list the members of the committees, provide details on when and where they meet and how to volunteer to join one. It also requires that candidates put forward for appointment or reappointment include an updated or current resume.
Previously, the membership of many boards was unavailable and the very existence of some committees were hard to confirm, even by legislators.
“This legislation helps residents connect more easily with volunteer committees that are helping the county work on a particular issue–whether it’s Lyme disease, environmental hazards, traffic safety, or veterans’ welfare,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie). “The more we work together the more good we can do.”
Originally introduced as a transparency resolution covering all of county government and requiring the publication of agendas and minutes, the resolution was amended by Republicans in July to remove those requirements and to exempt the County Executive’s meetings and boards. Republicans had voted against considering the original resolution on June 7 on a party line vote.
The Democratic caucus is a proponent of transparency and will continue to support and push for more resolutions such as this to insure better government.
“Although this is a watered down version of the original transparency resolution that Legislator Edwards worked tirelessly on, I am happy that we were able to finally get a resolution on the record that will prove to offer the public a real opportunity to get involved in their local government along with staying up-to-date on the issues we are working to resolve,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).
“This is a good first step and something that should have happened years ago,” said Minority Leader Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “Minutes and agendas should also be publicly available and there is no reason volunteer boards overseen by the county executive should be exempt but we’ll take what we can get for now.”
“An inclusive government makes our community stronger. Especially when progress comes with a $0 price tag, perpetuating barriers to participation is indefensible,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).
“If you want to get involved with county government, it ought to be easy to find out how. Government, after all, is not some distant foreign thing, made up of ‘them’. Government is us; we, the people. That’s really what this resolution stands for,” said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon).
“Good; step in the right direction— just common sense; next step should be even more transparency— for instance, county contracts should be up online on our official county government website so everyone can research for themselves pay-to-play in our county, comparing information there with data from our state Board of Elections website,” said Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton).