Morning Read: Adirondack Park Agency takes on critics

At yesterday’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting in Ray Brook, one of the citizens who spoke during the public comment period accused state officials of trying to “crucify” him.

Sometimes the rhetoric runs hot where the APA is concerned.  Chris Knight reported recently in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that the state agency has now convened a new committee designed to address this sort of criticism.

The “Public Awareness and Communications Committee” will be led by Bill Valentino and also includes commissioners Richard Booth, former local government leader Frank Mezzano, and former Republican assemblywoman Deedee Scozzafava, who now sits on the APA board.

“You don’t have to be here long, and I’ve only been here a year, to be aware of outside comments that don’t really reflect the reality of what we’re trying to do here or what’s happening on the ground,” Valentino said at the outset of the committee’s meeting last month.

“I think what the committee’s trying to find is a different way to set the record straight. I think it’s important to set the record straight because it’s in the public interest to set the record straight.”

This move comes following a year of sometimes bruising publicity for the APA and at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty about new leadership and direction.

So what do you think?  Is the Park Agency getting bashed unfairly?  And if so, is this the right way to go about addressing “misinformation”?

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24 Responses to “Morning Read: Adirondack Park Agency takes on critics”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    The APA is a paper tiger.
    How dare anyone equate themselves to Jesus! Crucify? Oh really!
    The rhetoric up here is often off the wall and totally out of proportion to the reality.
    The poor, dear Adirondackers who are always being picked upon by the big meanies from everywhere.
    Their rants and raves are totally boring.
    Suck it up and grow up.

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  2. Peter Hahn says:

    The APA is a giant zoning board. Generally people don’t like regulations applied to themselves, but they usually like regulations applied to other people. There are many people in the Adironadacks who just don’t like any regulations at all. They need to get over it – this isn’t the 19th century.

    That doesn’t mean that the APA can’t do a better job; we can all do better. But the APA has a tiny staff and no enforcement mechanism. They could certainly develop a better sensitivity to the needs of people living in the park, but many of those same people rant and rave at the slightest perceived “injustice” (see Pete Klein above).

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  3. Paul says:

    This agency operates in a very open way. I don’t know what more they can do.

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  4. Brian says:

    Basically many people have never accepted the existence of the APA. That’s what it boils down to.

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  5. Two Cents says:

    The first two posts nailed it.
    Go to anytown, anywhere zoning board meeting, it’s all the same.

    I was a Plan Examiner, NYS Code Offical.
    some people come in with hat in hand, some come in trying to obfuscate Codes from the second they open their mouths.
    Which do you think i liked to help more?
    Nobody likes to be told they “can’t” when beginning a building project.
    The television home improvement shows never discuss or show the Permit process, never mind Board of Appeals issues, when projects didn’t fit inside the box.
    Generally people decided on a saturday the want to build something, and they expect to go to the Town hall and get the Permit on Monday morning.

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  6. Keith Silliman says:

    Yes the APA gets bashed, and I think, most of time, unfairly. This committee will not help; if anything it may prolong discussion of nonissues. You will never silence the critics. The best approach is for the APA to focus on its mission and on the regulatory process that governs its decisionmaking.

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  7. Not a real edifying conversation so far. The only problem with the APA is Adirondackers are babies? The comments here, I think, are a demonstration of the problem — the reactions on the APA tend to be knee-jerk, whether in defense or attack.
    A PR committee isn’t a bad idea, if the members take it as their assignment to listen to complaints and address them, rather than to defend the agency against all attacks. Having people at the agency who take calls, and respond to questions from the public, would in itself be a step forward. So it is encouraging, I think, that people at the agency are acknowledging they have a problem, at least in public perception, and aren’t just hunkering down and telling each other they’re doing a great job and are misunderstood.

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  8. oa says:

    “The only problem with the APA is Adirondackers are babies?”
    Not the only problem, but in some cases, as pointed out above, it’s definitely one of the problems.

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  9. mary says:

    There must be other things to write about than the APA! It seems to be an overdone topic.

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  10. Mick says:

    The Public Comment system in APA is flawed; the times, dates, and places for public commentary make it virtually impossible to participate. A number of important issues have skated through with only a handful of comments from the public. Perhaps this is done by design; I don’t know. But if a large, credible, local newspaper were to provide a polling function, or perhaps a petition or referendum system, I think more residents would participate in the public comment period.

    In the recent Lows lake ruling by Michael Lynch, the decision actually mentioned that only TWO LETTERS FROM THE PUBLIC WERE RECEIVED AND NO PUBLIC COMMENTS. Does this tell us that the residents just don’t care, or that the public commentary system is broken? We are talking about MAJOR and sometimes permanent decisions here.

    Does APA stack the deck against the public, or does the public just not care?

    I bet that if the Public Comment system were different; more accessible, then thousands of petitions would have been presented in the classification meetings.

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  11. Two Cents says:

    Will,
    The Public Relations Committee would be a first line of defense for the Board against angry customers.
    Ultimately they would only be able to listen to gripes and grievences, they would not be able to re-write the Boards procedures or rules that an angry applicant has against a specific regulation.

    applicant:” hi- you guys won’t let me build my boathouse out onto the lake, and i think my septic should be allowed closer to the shore line.”
    Pub Rel Com:” ok mr jones, go right ahead i see your point. remember, were from the Government and we’re here to help.”
    That won’t happen, it will be more like an explanation given of the rules as to why you can not have what you want. So the circle goes round…
    The public, myself included would only see that as condescending, and bogus.
    Does that address the topic more specifically?! :-)

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  12. Two Cents says:

    Basically what you’re describing will is an ombudsman. One person (there, i just saved the State money) who answers calls, questions, concerning the established regulations, not a committee to bebate the issues, to change or justify them one way or the other.

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  13. chas12549 says:

    There needs to be a common sense atmosphere set up for the APA. Too often what is written does not fit the situation. Also I have seen the arrogant attitude of some officials and employees. Keep making the regulations tougher to do business in the Adirondacks and we will continue to see an outflow of the very natives and way of life we visit the area for.

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  14. An ombudsman would be excellent, I think. A good ombudsman is willing to find fault with her own organization, where she sees flaws, and can bring to pressure for changes.

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  15. Mcculley says:

    The problem is the APA is a zoning board not controlled by the people it zones. There for it is illegal and should be and will be challenged in Federal Court on that basis.

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  16. Dave says:

    I think most of these comments have hit the nail on the head. People do not like being regulated or restricted, no matter the reason or who or what is doing it.

    And this isn’t unique to Adirondackers.

    Go to any zoning meeting in any city in any state. You will experience a lot of familiar angst.

    Those feelings are magnified here when it comes to the APA for a lot of reasons… not the least of which is that there are people who propagate factually inaccurate information about the agency and the park. (Such as suggesting that the people who live here have no control over the board)

    So I think efforts to set the record straight when these inaccuracies gain momentum will have a positive impact.

    Sure, some people will not be interested in hearing anything that might contradict their negative beliefs about the agency, and they will continue to tell the same tall tales… but hopefully those people will be marginalized.

    Overall, I have to believe that injecting facts and accuracy into the public debate will allow the majority of us to draw better conclusions and have more productive conversations. That would be a good thing.

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  17. Dave,
    The people who live in the Park have far less control over the makeup of the board than the people who live in municipalities with zoning boards. Town zoning board members are appointed by town boards. The members of the town board are elected by the people in that town. Voters upset with the actions of local zoning boards can let their representative on the Town Board know and their opinion will have weight.
    In the Adirondacks, you have a small percentage of the state population living in a state park with a zoning board whose members are named by the governor, who is elected by the whole state. So, if the people in the Adirondacks are dissatisfied and make that known to the governor, their feelings will carry far less weight than they would in a town.
    You’re right, Adirondackers have some control, but much less than in the usual zoning board situation.

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  18. myown says:

    Everyone else in NYS has zoning and planning restrictions for many important reasons. The Adirondack State Park is a STATE PARK. The APA was created because most towns in the Park did not have adequate zoning and planning – and still don’t.

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  19. Pete Klein says:

    Will, I have a bit of a problem with your use of the word “control” as it relates to zoning of planning boards. These boards have rules and codes to follow and enforce, and are not supposed to be influenced by politics (by who knows who).

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  20. scratchy says:

    More decisions should be decided locally. This elitist “locals aren’t capable of governing themselves” has gone on too long.
    And, no, not all towns outside the Adirondacks have zoning.

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  21. myown says:

    No one said “locals aren’t capable of governing themselves”. However, this is a State Park we are talking about which involves the interests of all the State’s citizens, both as land owners and park users. Calling everyone elitist who believes the citizens of the State have a right to help determine the management of the Park is a bunch of crap and has gone on too long.

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  22. Pete Klein says:

    I would also add to what myown says. Often the local planning and zoning boards are stricter than the APA.

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  23. Bob S says:

    Go outside of the blue line and ask the average person on the street if he or she ever heard of the Adirondack State Park. I’ll bet that at least eight out of ten times you get a blank stare. Below Westchester County it will be closer to 10 out of ten.

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  24. Rich says:

    Pete Klein, just take a drive from the blue line east/west on rt 3 or north/south on rt 30 through the Park. That should be evidence enough that having local control of the APA would be a disaster.

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