Do you have a question for your county legislator? Why not ask it face to face?
The Schenectady County Legislature will host four community forums next week to give residents a chance to learn about the various functions of county government, the services it provides, to ask their legislators questions and to offer their feedback — both good and bad.
“We want to provide them information about the services that county government provides, but even more importantly we want to hear from them directly about the things we do well and the things we don’t do well, those areas that we need to improve,” said Legislature Chairman Tony Jasenski, who will lead the forums. “I don’t think there’s a better way to do that except fact to face.”
The first forum, for District 4 — which includes Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam — is Monday at Rotterdam Town Hall. The second forum, for the city’s District 1, will be Tuesday at the Schenectady County Public Library.
All forums begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public:
District 4: Monday, Rotterdam Town Hall, 1100 Sunrise Blvd.
District 1: Tuesday, Schenectady County Public Library, 99 Clinton St.
District 2: Wednesday, Robb Auditorium at Ellis Health Center, 600 McClellan St., Schenectady
District 3: Thursday, Niskayuna Town Hall, One Niskayuna Circle
A forum for the city’s District 2 will be Wednesday at Robb Auditorium at Ellis Health Center and a forum for District 3 — which includes Glenville, Niskayuna and Scotia — is set for Thursday at Niskayuna Town Hall.
The forums all start at 7 p.m. and all 15 members of the Legislature have been invited to attend.
“I haven’t got the list of who RSVP’d, but they’re certainly all invited,” Jasenski said. “I would hope that the legislators representing those specific districts would be there.”
The forums will begin with a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation by Jasenski, with a question-and-answer session to follow. “We’ll be there as long as it takes to get through it and to get it done,” he said.
Jasenski said he has wanted to strengthen the line of communication between legislators and residents since becoming chairman in January. He said county government is one step removed from its constituents, and residents often have an easier time reaching their village and town representatives.
The county is also in the process of upgrading its website, which offers no means for residents to send emails directly to their legislators and does not list legislators’ phone numbers.
“Once the new site is up and running, it’ll vastly improve our ability to communicate,” Jasenski said.
Elmer Bertsch, of Niskayuna, drew attention to the website’s limitations during last week’s Legislature meeting.
“This is the only legislative body [in the county] where residents do not have a right to have direct contact with any of these people,” said Bertsch, 74.
Bertsch, a frequent speaker at Legislature meetings, said he welcomes the community forums.
“If representative government at the local level is going to mean anything in the future, yes, you have do something to be able to educate people and make it accessible,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea, as long as it in fact allows critical questions to be asked and answered, and that the public is given a greater sense of what the procedures of government are.”
Jasenski said he hopes the forums will inspire dialog between legislators and residents on ways the county, its villages and its towns can work together to find savings for the taxpayers. His presentation will highlight the Unified Communications Center, a consolidation of the county’s dispatchers into one building in Rotterdam that promises to save taxpayers $673,000 in its first year. The center is planned to open next month.
Jasenski said he hopes to make the forums semi-annual, and plans to host another round of forums later this year.
“What better way to hear from our constituents than to bring our message to them and hear from them about what they’d like us to do?” he said. “We’re really excited about it. It’s been quite a while since we’ve done this.”