Citizens in this town want their voice back

To the Editor:

When residents of Berne attend a town board meeting either in person or virtually via Zoom, they are not allowed to speak. I find it disrespectful that the Berne Town Board has stopped having comments or questions from the residents at their meetings. This goes against what both [council members Bonnie] Conklin and [Mathew] Harris were promoting during their campaign.

In the March 14, 2019 edition of The Altamont Enterprise, “Conklin hopes to find out what residents are concerned about while asking them questions on the campaign trail with Harris,” it says, “Mat Harris feels that town board members have not always respected the ‘general taxpayer’ speaking at meetings, and have not taken what residents have to say into account. As someone currently not enrolled in any party, he said that he also would help end the board’s division along party lines. ‘I don’t do what the party wants me to do; I’ll do what the people in town want me to do,’ he said.”

Mr. Harris — how can you possibly know what the town wants if the residents are not allowed to speak?

Also during their campaign, in the Oct. 10, 2019 Enterprise: “Mathew Harris says he’s running for Berne Town Board because he wants to listen to town residents. When he attended town board meetings, he said, he was ‘sort of unhappy’ with how citizens bringing their concerns to the board were treated, he said.

“‘The general feeling or atmosphere — I thought, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be,’ said Harris. ‘I got this feeling that people on the town board had already decided what to do before they heard from people in town.’ Harris said, ‘You have to work with a huge array of people … You have to be able to work with everybody to get the job done.’

“He sees being on the town board as ‘an opportunity to encourage and promote accountability, personal responsibility, and transparency, and work with everyone on the board regardless of party.’ He stressed, ‘Party politics should be over the day after the election.’ If he’s elected, Harris said, he would ‘report directly to the residents of Berne by respecting everybody’s views and opinions without party prejudice.’

“‘I don’t have an idea what the town should or shouldn’t have. The people in the town have been sort of disregarded … It’s not what I think; it’s what they think’ that is important, Harris said. Harris concluded, ‘The town board needs to listen and talk to townspeople [about proposed businesses] to help smooth the way for the business to invest. ‘The town board should facilitate what the people want. If people don’t want it,’ Harris said, then the board should decline the business or require the business to make changes to its plan.”

Harris states that he was sort of unhappy with how citizens bringing their concerns to the board were treated. Well, that problem is solved isn’t it now that the citizens are not allowed to voice their concerns.

The people in the town are being completely ignored now aren’t they? It is not about what the board has to do but what the board should do and give the voice back to the people.

Harris also stated that he would work with everyone on the board to get the job done. Did you really mean everyone? That does not seem to be the case.

There are citizens in this town who want their voice back.

Frank Brady

East Berne

Editor’s note: Frank Brady, a Democrat, ran for Berne Town Board on the GOP line in 2017 and on the Democratic line in 2019; neither run was successful.

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