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Editorial: Let people be heard on casino plan

Editorial: Let people be heard on casino plan

Public still hasn't been given full opportunity to comment on Alco-site casino proposal

Enough members of the Schenectady City Council apparently now support the new casino plan that passage of a resolution endorsing it seems a sure bet.

That’s OK — except that the decision to support the plan was reached without the benefit of a formal public hearing.

In fact, it now appears the council won’t even bother to hold such a hearing, which is disappointing because far more people undoubtedly have opinions on the subject than have expressed them during privilege-of-the-floor sessions at recent meetings and at Monday’s county Legislature meeting.

While there will still be a chance for the public to comment when the City Council meets Monday night, that’s also the night the council plans to vote. And it’s clear that a majority of the council members’ minds have already been made up.

It’s also possible that by failing to hold a formal public hearing, the council will undermine the applicant’s claim to have public support. Government approval is one thing; the public’s is another. And it seems unclear at this point where the public stands.

Clearly, there have been supporters as well as detractors showing up at recent meetings, writing letters, etc.

While holding a formal public hearing at this juncture might be little more than a formality, it is one that council members shouldn’t sell short. If for no other reason, how will they convince voters in the future that they really listened to them before making up their minds?

The council’s long-standing unwritten rule about not voting on controversial issues the same night of a public hearing is a good one: to at least give the impression they're assessing what the public thinks before making up their minds. And yet the council isn’t even bothering to do this.

Time is growing short, of course. But there was enough of it before now for council leaders to properly plan — to schedule and hold a hearing — and still vote by the June 30 deadline, even if many of the details didn’t come out until the middle of last month.

By calling for a special meeting or two, and voting the same night as the hearing, it would still be possible for the council to remedy the situation, which it doesn’t seem inclined to do.

So at the very least, it owes every last citizen who shows up next Monday the opportunity to voice their opinions during privilege of the floor. Even if it takes all night, it seems like the proper thing to do.

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