The Sixth Councilman

Dear Islanders,

As you know, one of my biggest efforts since becoming supervisor has been to increase the transparency and citizen involvement at Town Hall. In an effort to keep everyone informed, I’ve decided to write a review of what occurred at each Town Board meeting. I will summarize pertinent agenda items, board and resident input, outcomes, and finish with my comments. The review of the most recent board meeting can be found on my Facebook page.

Social media is not a crime.

Some people think social media is evil. I don’t agree. Social media is like any other communication tool. It can be used appropriately or inappropriately. For example, I can use email to exchange ideas with citizens, or I can bombard people with clickbait articles.

I use Facebook to share information about events and issues in our town. At the same time, I occasionally use it to call out behavior that I believe is wrong and hurts our town. I feel no shame in that. Each post allows thousands of people to easily access updates about Island happenings. Of course, this sometimes results in backlash, since it’s easier to share opinions online than it is face-to-face.

Many of my posts have created virtual tornados of activity with of hundreds of Islanders sharing their thoughts and ideas. It’s not always pretty. Name calling and personal attacks are never helpful. But healthy dialogue (that “marketplace of ideas”) is helpful. Or in the words of famed primatologist Jane Goodall, “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right.”

Let’s not imagine that silence equates with efficiency

Once upon a time, Town Hall was as opaque as a onyx cube. Like it or not, we have more transparency today than ever before. The town is alive with discussion. That exchange of ideas is, in a large part, due to your interaction on social media.

Those who argue that things were better when everything was quiet in Town Hall fail to recall that in those days only one party (made up of friends) dominated the political landscape on Grand Island. Every vote was 5-0, 5-0, 5-0, in lock step unity. If you want to go back to days of unanimous board votes and an uninvolved public, we can do so. But I bet you will also get crony deals, bad politics, and a Town Hall government that runs everything through early-morning workshops and executive sessions. Our Town record speaks for itself. Please go back and read it.

You are the sixth councilperson — we need you!

There is no doubt that I have been able to get far more done this last year and a half because many of you read these articles and follow my activity on social media. My ability to go the public has acted as a check on overreach by a Town Board where I am the single Island Democrat. I use the term “Island Democrat” and “Island Republican” often, because many of us know that on Grand Island those parties denote far more about who you know than what you believe.

The bottom line is that without my ability to reach out to you —the sixth councilman —through social media, I would have been a dead duck. I can say with full surety that without social media:

• There would be no solar law;

• the Dunlop Building (Holiday Inn Express) project would have died due to construction delays;

• An RFP for a community center would have been approved without almost any public input;

• The Scenic Woods project would have faded away;

• The Agricultural Movement would have been destroyed and legislated out of existence;

• And yes, the West River Parkway funds would have drifted away forever.

The sixth councilman is the most important!

Gone are the days of the supervisor and the other four council members making decisions without outside input. You are, in a sense, just as influential — if not more so — than any one of our esteemed council men or women.  You, your neighbor, and the guy you see at the gym every day, are all part of the decision-making process for the town. We listen to your opinions. Trust me — I’ve seen the movement.

With highest regards,