Participating in Penfield: a Challenge

You may recall a blog I wrote this past July regarding Penfield’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan, and the Supervisor’s request to residents, encouraging them to apply for the volunteer advisory committee. The deadline to do so was Sept. 6, 2017. A member of the Penfield Democratic Committee tried to apply, but was met with a lack of both communication and answers.

Below, read guest blogger Megan Wagner’s account of her experience trying to participate as a resident of Penfield *at the invitation of our town leaders* and the chaotic responses from said leaders.

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The Penfield Town Supervisor and Board are significantly lacking in communication regarding the Town 2020 Comprehensive Plan and Committee. While I have now experienced this first hand, it’s actually quite public.

The town’s website shares the following timeline as Penfield prepares for its next decade.

July 12 – project start: seems that happened…just not sure what exactly was “started”

Sept 6 – Committee selection: not completed

Sept 26 – Committee meeting #1: did not happen

Oct 24 – Committee meeting #2: did not happen

Nov 28 – Committee meeting #3: doesn’t appear scheduled as we still don’t have a committee selected

http://www.penfield.org/2020_comp_plan.php

Now don’t get me wrong, plans get off track; timelines need adjusting. This happens. It’s how you deal with those changes and how, or even if, you communicate those changes. Our town governance has clearly not communicated any such changes…or the website site would be updated!

I have heard that our Town Supervisor and Town Board are “not transparent”. I have heard of fellow residents who have applied for Town committees that never receive a response, fellow residents that haven’t received a response or were passed off to a specific town board member who was still researching answers. I had not yet experienced it myself, until the past four months.

Here is the timeline of submitting my interest to serve on the Town’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan Committee to date.

  • July 26, 2017 – I submitted my intent to serve on the Town of Penfield’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan and Committee via the Town Supervisor’s email address. I wasn’t clear on the process, as the website’s page dedicated to this project did not provide clear information on how to apply. The same day, I received a response from his Admin, directing me to the instructions in his “Supervisor Column” on July 18, 2017. It turns out that I did exactly what was needed to be done anyway! I followed up with specific questions about the selection process, but the response I received was: “Thank you for your comments”.
  • August 14 – I followed up via email regarding my questions.
  • August 18 – the Supervisor himself responded via email. I was told applicants would understand the decision within the next 2-3 weeks. My questions were answered: “There is no formal rubric for committee selection as in a classroom situation. In general, the town board will be looking for people with experience serving the community in any way, skill sets that include land use, environmental studies, sustainability, demographics, communications, technology, legal, and other areas that align with the Comprehensive Plan. That’s why we requested a letter of interest and resume. As we have in the past, when the town board selects candidates we will be looking for open minded people who can share ideas and respectfully listen to others. The town board will review all letters of interest and from that pool choose a cross-section of skills and interests to serve on the committee alongside staff and subject matter experts from other committees and professions. The process is organic and will be driven by the context of the pool of applicants”.
  • August 20 – I replied to the Supervisor with appreciation for the update. I also asked about selection process clarity as per his July 18 Supervisor Column, the selection considerations were that the board was “looking for residents with varied backgrounds and experiences from all parts of town who are willing to commit their valuable time from September 2017 to June 2019…“. In addition, I asked the Supervisor about other ways to serve the town and entry points he may see as alternative opportunities.
  • September 27 – I followed up via email to the Supervisor and his Admin again, having not heard in the 2-3 week mark as was stated, regarding committee selection nor a response to my clarifying questions on the committee selection nor additional questions.
  • October 3 – I followed up again via email. There continues to be no response to my emails.
  • October 12 – I called the Supervisor’s office and was told he has nothing to do with the plan at this time. I was told that the decisions regarding the committee rests with the Town Board and that his office had no information to report. Indeed, he also was unaware of an updated timeline.
  • October 12 – I forwarded my email stream to the entire town board asking for an update. No response.
  • October 25 – I followed up with the Town Board via email.
  • October 27 – Andy Moore responded to me alone: “Sorry for the delay in responding. Not sure where the first email went??? We are still in the coordination process of formulating the Committee and its timeline. To date, no decisions on Committee membership have been made. Thank you for your interest”.
  • October 27 – I acknowledged Mr. Moore’s response and asked for the website to be updated. No response to date.
  • November 2 – Paula Metzler responded to my email, including the entire board. However, her email did not sound as if she had communicated with Mr. Moore who had already responded with the same thing, “Thank you for your email and your follow up. A committee has not yet been selected. The timeline was a general guideline to set forth the steps, with the process moving forward in a time frame at the discretion of the Town Board. All applicants will be notified by the Supervisor once a committee has been formed. Thank you for your interest”.
  • November 2 – I acknowledged the response and appreciated the response. I asked again for an update on the timeline given the website was still not updated. No response to date.

There is not an updated project plan or timeline on the town website. This has been an extremely frustrating journey. I’d like a public response from the Town Supervisor and each Town Board member.

The difficulty in being an awareness-raising activist is that it can be a full-time job. Most of us have those already. We just want to take part in our community in some impactful and meaningful way. We care about Penfield. We care about our families.

Why is it so challenging to participate in Penfield?

 

 

 

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