Sunday, February 24, 2013

Practice what you preach, please

As I have said before, opponents to consolidation have some good points despite the fact that some of them have their own agendas.  But despite this being a college town, apparently no one in this debate has a clue how to educate.

A letter to the New Paltz Times a couple of weeks ago put forth a beef with the process:  the writers would ask specific questions about the finances, and be told to watch the videos of the meetings if they wanted an answer.  It's not unreasonable to be irritated by that sort of response; it's lazy, it's obfuscatory, and it ignores the fact that residents who didn't have the time to attend those meetings aren't going to have the time to watch them, either.

On top of that, the New Paltz Government Efficiency Project site, which should be the central repository for all of this information, is "undergoing maintenance" as of this writing, and has been for days, if not longer.

I thought the solution to this overwhelming sea of data would be New Paltz Fact Check, the blog set up "in order to inform public discourse, policy, and decision making by providing factual, objective analysis of issues important to New Paltz," according to its about page.  But if there's analysis, objective or otherwise, I can't find it.

What I see instead is a vast number of links and documents, many of which wouldn't be available to the public otherwise.  Internal emails, commentary from a Facebook group, public comments, and letters to the editor all in one place.  It's useful to have all this information in front of me, but where's the analysis I was promised?

The problem of analysis, or lack thereof, plagues both camps during this debate.  Don't we have a college in New Paltz?  Aren't there tenured professors and licensed teachers packed thickly in our voter rolls?  Isn't there anyone willing to step up and walk the voting public through the numbers, rather than just expecting us to wade through gigabytes of data without context?

It's unacceptable to champion either viewpoint in this cause without providing meaningful education to the voters.  It's disingenuous for the "yes" camp to expect the public to support this initiative when largely we don't have the time to dig in to the mounds of data.  It's hypocritical for the "no" camp to complain about this lack of analysis, claim to do something about it, and then just add to the problem.

Voters in this community are getting the message that we aren't bright enough to comprehend this mammoth problem, but the truth is, we just don't have as much time on our hands as the volunteers and elected officials (not to mention the paid consultants) do to wrap our minds around it.

Here's an unambiguous request to any and all who are invested in the consolidation question:  don't insult the voting public, educate us.


kt tobin said...

One critical difference between the "fact checkers" and the elected officials is that the electeds are paid officials charged by law to do the work and explain their positions & proposals. The original grant proposal specified that there would be,"Dedicated pages on both municipalities’ websites will provide a record the study progress and include links to all relevant documents." and " A blog for public comment and dedicated email address will be made available. All comments will be published via the study website and in public forums."
I agree the Fact Check site needs more organization and summary analysis - we are working on it, but most of us work full time and are scrambling for time just to gather all the data - much of it FOILed - and put it in one place. More to come!
ps. the "ning" site with the Fairweather report has been done for months, not days.

Manysounds said...

... Still
"We apologize for the inconvenience, but New Paltz Government Efficiency Project is currently undergoing maintenance."