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Reporter Editorial: Communicating clearly

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO The public meeting room of Town Hall.
The public meeting room of Town Hall.

There’s a communication problem among various appointed town committees and the elected Town Board that is causing confusion among residents about the status of important issues.

James Humes, an author and presidential speech writer, summed up the reason for government’s left hand not knowing what its right hand is doing, when he wrote, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

Even though each town committee is monitored by one or more members of the Town Board who reports back to their colleagues, there needs to be better communication from one committee to another.

The Zoning Board of Appeals highlighted the problem last week while discussing how its approval of plans doesn’t always translate to the final plans on which the Town Board acts.

Building Permits Examiner Lori Beard Raymond noticed it, saying she sometimes has been trying to locate a plan only to find that it never made it to her files because the application that was passed to the next committee or board carried its own plan, not the one the ZBA had approved.

Which brings to mind George Bernard Shaw’s wry observation that the “single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

With several committees concentrating on water quality issues, we frequently hear conflicting references at meetings that reveal that one committee has no idea what another may be discussing or deciding.

And because our job is to cover these meetings, we’re sometimes reporting conflicting information that each board reveals, despite our best efforts to clarify what’s happening.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. has wisely suggested that an application that needs attention from several boards be placed in a single file that moves from committee to committee and contains all the information that went into each decision.

We understand that most of our committees have volunteer members who don’t always have a lot of time to read what other groups are doing. But attention needs to be paid to coordinating issues that are the subject matter for more than one committee so the members of all committees dealing with the issue have a thorough understanding about the overall status of issues.

Time consuming, yes. But unraveling confusing information is even more time consuming.