Monroe Town Board and Civility: An oxymoron?
For the residents of Monroe, NY, there’s nothing like watching Cablevision’s Government Access channel, known colloquially as “Channel 22”. At 8PM each evening, it’s the home of both bizarre entertainment…and snowy pictures from the 80’s-circa Betamax equipment used by the town to video tape the even more bizarre happenings.
In other words, if you like C-SPAN, there’s a remote chance that you might enjoy watching Channel 22. C-SPAN, however, doesn’t censor its goings-on, and anyone who is a fan of their morning call-in shows has seen more of their share of unscreened callers violate FCC regulations. Monroe? They just shut the cameras down whenever anything reflecting poorly on the town board becomes evident, and George Carney goes to work behind the scenes to perform some careful editing, blurring, and dubbing. Therefore, for fans of Channel 22, you aren’t seeing the whole story. Just what the Monroe Town Board and Harley Doles would prefer that they show you.
Call it the “People’s Republic of Monroe” under “Chairman Harley”. He’d rather not show the versions of civility that actually occur as a result of his administration of the Monroe government, instead using clever editing to do that dirty work for him.
So as a public service before this particular piece, we introduce the United Monroe YouTube page, where you will find the unfiltered, uncensored, unedited content of these meetings (other than the long breaks for the constant “Executive Sessions” in the middle of each meeting, a hallmark of Doles’ not-so-open-government).
The Civility of Salt-Gate.
First, let’s begin showing the clip from “Salt-Gate”. As background, a Special Meeting of the Town Board was called to discuss finances with respect to the Highway Department. Harley Doles and Gerard McQuade were conspicuously absent, leaving Town Comptroller Peter Martin to perform the dirty work of throwing Highway Superintendent Anthony Rizzo under the bus.
Some background that will no doubt be useful to call out for this meeting. Monroe spent $317,000 in 2014 for salt to treat the roads for what was considered a winter of snow rather than ice. In 2015, faced with a winter more notable for ice than snow, the highway department was given a budget of only $200,000, less than the prior year, and therefore undercutting the highway department’s ability to treat roads. Couple that with an increase of 28% over the previous year for salt costs, and the results aren’t good from a budget standpoint. Credit where due, Monroe’s roads under Superintendent Rizzo have been well-treated in spite of some horrible conditions, and residents were safe. But the bottom-line is that Rizzo wasn’t provided with sufficient funds to undertake keeping roads drivable during a colder and icier winter season.
Noteworthy is that Martin will not explicitly state that the budget was reduced, something Rizzo has gone to significant lengths to depict. The notion of civility in this conversation is lost in the back-and-forth between Rizzo, Martin and other members of the board. And this is without Doles and McQuade in attendance, and all predicated on Peter Martin’s usual fuzzy math.
Could this have been prevented? Had the highway department been funded to at least the level of the prior year, the pain might have been lessened. And granted that Rizzo’s strong suit may not be finance, but then again as we’ve learned, neither is Martin’s. More fodder for consideration is that Rizzo, once Doles’ selection for highway superintendent, has fallen out of favor with the Supervisor for not simply acceding to Doles’ demands for cuts to road maintenance to fund pet projects, such as his movie theater or duck pond or his potential spray park. The funds for all of those must come from somewhere, and with property tax caps in effect, all of those new expenses come in the face of cutting elsewhere.
What you can expect
Look for a new candidate to be run against Rizzo for the highway job, potentially the former highway supervisor of Blooming Grove who just purchased a home in Monroe, or possibly Mr. McQuade double-dipping from both his town councilman salary and his salary as highway superintendent, a fact which Doles and his board would rather you overlook with the spin that the highway department has been run “incompetently”. The truth? It’s been stripped of its budget to pay for “Harleyland”, and its theater, duck boats and any other toys Mr. Doles sees fit to purchase.
More Civility? April 20th.
As contrast — a dial you’d really need to adjust in watching Channel 22 — let’s turn to the April 20th meeting where the topic of “civility” was in rarified form.
Once again, this was an opportunity for two things to occur:
- Harley Doles, Gerard McQuade and the remainder of the cronies on the Monroe Town Board took their own liberties with civility by identifying Highway Superintendent Rizzo as, among other epithets, “incompetent” in a public forum. That’s correct. One elected official using his office to publicly berate, slander and abuse another elected official. That version is likely on Channel 22 in some form, albeit heavily edited. As you’ll note from the above video (courtesy United Monroe), a significant portion of the meeting was used to demonstrate just how civil our elected officials behave in public. Which is to say…they don’t.
- It was to be the opportunity for Harley Doles to further stifle the public’s discontent with his dictating and abusive leadership style, as well as his lack of public accountability to anyone south of the Quickly (and a few people north of it). This was his meeting where, without public comment, he was set to introduce a resolution to address the Civility of Behavior at Public Meetings, a resolution which would have removed any further privilege of the floor time where citizens could publicly address their grievances in an open and transparent atmosphere, a theme Mr. Doles has hammered constantly since taking office.
Except the first item took much great precedence, and the second item was almost too embarrassing to mention after the Board’s own behavior on the first item. What the Channel 22 cameras will not capture is a large segment of the audience who stood and turned their backs to the board as it discussed the resolution.
No one ever said that timing was Doles’ strong suit. Nor was subtlety. Definitely not civility as people were ejected from the meeting after pleading with the board for civility in their own behavior. And passive/aggressive commentary from Gerry McQuade is rarely a lost opportunity for his bully pulpit once public comment has concluded and he can have the last word.
So there’s your civility, Harley Doles-style. About as civil as a sledgehammer over the skull.
Keep in mind that this Town Board is one that has behaved deplorably. It’s been as transparent as a brick wall. The Town Supervisor effectively does what he wants, without reproach, which includes his lack of civility toward the town’s own citizens, as evidenced by his harassing and illegal traffic stop and the contacting of police outside the local jurisdiction to address an issue in which Doles himself had no place and no power of enforcement. And all of that while conspicuously driving the “town’s” new Chevrolet Tahoe, purchased with town funds, and used primarily by the supervisor without as much as a register or sign-out log to demonstrate the usage, or explain its repeated presence in his personal driveway.
So…about that civility thing…
The Monroe Town Board and “civility” are two phrases that should never appear in the same sentence, since they represent an oxymoron. This is a board who has gone to great lengths to smear the taxpayers of Monroe — the very people who pay their salaries — as “anti-Semites”, “unreasonable”, and “a mob scene” or who show up to “disrupt town meetings”. When you consider that without those disruptions, the elected board would have gladly ceded the lead agency of the Kiryas Joel annexation to Kiryas Joel had it not been for the presence of people who called them on the issue; would and did gladly hand over the smaller lead-agency on the illegal segmentation of a 164 acre annexation measure; who routinely calls those who challenge the accuracy of their information as “liars” or as “crazy”….civility shouldn’t enter into their vocabulary. Calling the citizens of the town they govern ‘uncivil’ is too much of the pot calling the kettle black, given their own behavior.
“When the people fear the government, that’s tyranny; when the government fears the people, that’s freedom.” – Thomas Jefferson.
It is perhaps time that our elected officials should once again fear the commentary and wrath of their people, as only then can freedom remain. That’s far better than the tyranny that Mr. Doles and his associates have wrapped in a word called “civility”. Judge by your own example. Respect your constituents, but fear their wrath.
Responsible replies invited.