Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Discussing the Planning Board "invitation."

One of the more challenging parts of the job of being a member of the Board of Education is reading the newspaper stories that purport to tell the facts of this or that BOE event, and to see the difference between what is reported and what actually happened. Our small-town press, with a rotating cast of reporters, is imperfect (as is the national press, of course, though not usually to the same extent). Most of the time the facts are correct, but often the choice of quotes can skew the picture.

Anyway, my latest frustration was in reading the quotes attributed to me in the North Jersey.com story about the Board of Ed declining to participate in another Planning Board hearing. A quote from me about "moving forward" made it sound like I wanted to "move on." That isn't what I said or meant! So, I’d like to reprint here my comments from Monday night and, through the magic of the Internet, improve those comments further in order to make myself as clear as possible.

Monday night, I started by looking at the lengthy invitation (resolution) from the Planning Board. There were page after page of whereas this and whereas that. And then on page 5 they finally got to the point:

WHEREAS, although not an "official" action pursuant to law, the Planning Board wishes to memorialize its vote to confirm its intent to create an amicable forum and opportunity for open dialogue among the persons in interest, recognizing that an opportunity to be heard and to have issues vetted is appropriate for the community.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Planning Board of the Village of Ridgewood does hereby memorialize its vote "to invite and encourage" the BOE to attend an additional courtesy review meeting, together with the neighbors of the subject Properties for purpose of discussing the issues of field lighting for RHS and Stevens fields…

Monday night, I said that if the point of the proposed hearing (or “courtesy review”) was to give persons an opportunity to be heard and have open dialogue, then we don’t need the Planning Board to do that. Yes, I facetiously did say that we have plenty of space at the Ed Center to hold meetings and have dialogue. But I also said to my colleagues on the Board and to Dr. Fishbein that if our position is that we are already working with the neighbors to resolve our differences, then we need to keep working with the neighbors. We need to keep moving forward and show progress.

We tried to meet with the neighbors to get input on the Fields Policy, and they didn’t want to participate – choosing to wait for a decision regarding the Planning Board. Now that we’ve made our decision, we need to answer the neighbors on our own.

My concern is that we “on the inside” – on the Board and in the Ed Center – feel like we’re making progress (and we are), but it doesn’t look that way from the outside. We already know the answers to many of the neighbors’ questions. We’ve taken steps on things like signage at the fields and porta-johns and revisions to the Fields Policy and communicating standards of conduct to athletes. We on the Board know these things are happening – and that’s part of the reason we don’t feel the need to go to a Planning Board hearing. But we have not done a good job of communicating this information.

We have been talking about a “master list of concerns,” with answers and solutions, which will be shared with the neighbors and the entire community. We’ve been talking about the list for over a month, but we haven’t accomplished it yet. (Note: Monday night Dr. Fishbein updated the Board…the list will be done soon.)

I know we have the answers. I know we are or will be taking steps to address everything. I have no doubt and I am quite secure in the “rightness” of the things we’re doing. But I can see that from the outside, the answers and the info aren’t visible.

I don’t want to just keep inviting the neighbors to meetings where we “listen.” There’s really no reason for us to keep hearing the same concerns and the same questions. We have some answers, we'll get some more, let's start sharing them.

As I said Monday night, I am opposed to participating in a Planning Board hearing, but I say that with the understanding that, in my opinion, we need to that we are putting the neighbors’ concerns to bed.

(Note: The Board will send an official response to the Planning Board and I'll post it here when it's available.)


Anonymous said...

you might want to look at your laterst blog from someone else computer - I see 12 occurnces of

not sure what that is about.

You mention that you were being facetious when you spoke about BOE having plenty of space for discussion, so not needing Planning Board as an informal forum. I have to suggest that as a public figure, being facetious leads to misunderstanding.

I live far from RHS, but I was shocked when I drove by at night and lights were on - it is quite a driving distraction. Maybe they could be oriented differently?

The fact that residents wanted a hearing before Planning Board (and lost) shouldn't equate into their being uncooperative.

People's homes are not only often their biggest investment, but also defines their daily lifestyle. I think the BOE used its legal powers, but not in a kind or caring manner. If they had given a full and exhaustive hearing to the neighbors, at least the rest of us wouldn't feel like the neighbors were ignored.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the heads up on the formatting issue. I don't know what caused that, either, but it had something to do with pasting my text in from another program. Hopefully I have corrected the problem.

Thanks for the input on my facetiousness. I've said before that I should have an index item called "politician, I am not a" on my blog, with a link to all the many times I've reacted like a "normal" person and not as carefully as some would advise.

I do not think the residents wanting a Planning Board hearing alone meant they were being uncooperative. We have a process and we have the ability to meet with neighbors or others. We have had at least four meetings with various members of the neighborhood, and we are currently scheduling another. We will be posting a document responding to all concerns very soon. No one is being "ignored." When all is said and done, I believe "full and exhaustive" will be one way to describe the process we will have gone through.

Regarding the lights on October 15, which is when you must have driven by (since that is the one and only time the lights have been turned on): There will be a process of testing and adjusting the lights to ensure they are oriented properly and safely. As soon as PSE&G tells us when they will switch on the power, we can make plans to complete the installation and testing/adjusting.

Thanks for writing.

Laurie said...

Let me just add, to be extra sure: the main point of my blog post (and comments Monday night) was to acknowledge that, in my opinion, we have not communicated with the neighbors and the rest of the community as well as we should have, and that we need to keep moving forward and do better. We don't need the Planning Board to do that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I guess it was October 15 then, and I am glad to hear that it is not a final orienting of the lights.
Thank you for your explanation and clarification.