April 12, 2023
Contact: David Gibson, Adirondackwild.org
APA Proposal Restricts Public Comment. It Should be Rejected.
Ray Brook, NY – A staff proposal at the Adirondack Park Agency this month could eliminate two-thirds of oral public comment opportunities, restrict general written comments, and fast track APA policy decisions. These proposals should be rejected by the APA members in favor of greater transparency and respect for the public’s access and inputs to the APA.
Under the proposal, APA may decide to eliminate all morning public comment, an opportunity that has been available for decades, and restrict oral comments to one period at the close of the meeting. Agency staff have claimed that morning public comment interferes with Agency agendas and is unfair to applicants. However, these claims have not been backed with evidence.
“For decades, APA has allowed public comment periods at the start of business on Thursday and Friday mornings and at the close of meetings on Friday afternoon. The proposed policy change eliminates two out of three comment opportunities. That sends a negative message, that public comment at the APA is far less welcome than it once was,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. “That negative message is completely inconsistent with Governor Hochul’s executive order on open government and transparency.”
“Not only should the APA reject the staff proposal and keep morning public comment, but they should expand it to make 15 minutes available for public comment in the morning and at the close of meetings. The APA chair is perfectly capable of controlling public comment so that it does not interfere with Agency business or affect applicants. The public’s right to be heard before the APA should continue to be respected and, in fact, should be expanded, not restricted,” Gibson added.
In addition, the staff proposal would restrict written public comment on topics outside of formal, noticed comment periods to receipt within three days of Agency meetings. Today, such comments can be received anytime at the discretion of the Agency. The change would be unduly restrictive, says Adirondack Wild. Finally, the APA proposes to fast track approval of policy and guidance documents, eliminating the current requirement that such documents are reviewed and considered over three APA meetings prior to approval. The proposed change limits the time APA would take for reflection and consideration of a policy’s consequences to the APA itself and to the public. “That is very unwise. Policy and guidance documents should continue to be considered over a three-meeting cycle,” says Adirondack Wild’s Gibson.
Comments on the APA’s public comment policy are due by April 21, 2023. Visit www.apa.ny.gov. Adirondack Wild’s letter to the APA is here: Comment Letter to the APA
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is a not-for-profit, membership advocate acting to safeguard wilderness and to promote wild land values and stewardship. More is found on the web at adirondackwild.org.