We understand the challenges of returning to in-person government meetings and of reopening government buildings to the public without appointment.
What we don’t understand is why the city of Schenectady’s mayor and the president of the City Council haven’t even had a conversation about it, and why there remains confusion over who even has the decision-making power.
As the covid crisis appears to be waning and the state is lifting restrictions on public gatherings, municipal governments have been gradually addressing how best to resume normal operations.
For about the past year, government meetings have been closed to the public, with many municipal and school boards setting up opportunities for citizens to observe government proceedings online or on television and providing ways for the public to comment.
But no matter how well the remote meetings are organized and how much board members invite public participation, there’s nothing like having the public in the same room as their government representatives to promote understanding of the issues, provide direct access to officials and encourage questions and debate.
So in anticipation of returning to in-person meetings, boards have been establishing guidelines for in-person meetings, while continuing to air meetings online for those who still don’t feel safe attending in person or who have come to like the convenience of watching from home.
Government bodies also are slowly reopening their public buildings
It’s all moving ahead.
Except in the city of Schenectady.
On Tuesday, Mayor Gary McCarthy and City Council President John Mootooveren revealed that they haven’t discussed either returning to in-person meetings or reopening government buildings.
In fact, it appears no one from either the mayor’s office or the council has actually clarified who has responsibility for doing it.
The mayor says it’s the council that has the responsibility to call for in-person meetings, with notification to the city.
The council president says he was waiting to hear from the mayor.
Don’t these people work in the same government? Weren’t they each elected to run the city? Don’t they each have leadership roles that include taking the initiative? Don’t have each other’s phone numbers or email addresses?
Didn’t one of them ever think, “Hey, it looks like it’s time to start going back to in-person meetings and letting people back in City Hall. Wonder what (John/Gary) is thinking. Maybe I’ll give him a call and find out.”
That’s most likely how school boards and government boards across the state have been handling their situations.
But not Schenectady.
It’s long past time for someone in city government to lead.