So when I reported on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new system of Regional Economic Development Council’s last week, it was still a little unclear how these volunteer-run advisory groups would navigate politically charged decisions.
State officials, and members of the North Country Council, argued that the group would work toward consensus, using public input to shape a plan for this region that all sides could embrace.
Then, last week, Council co-chair Garry Douglas — who also heads the Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce — announced that the I-98 rooftop highway project wouldn’t be included as a priority project.
Now, a St. Lawrence County legislator is calling for Douglas to be replaced, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
“If Mr. Douglas cannot find it in himself to be more open-minded, then I call for Gov. Cuomo to remove him from the council and we can continue with one chair,” Mr. Burns said in an email.
Mr. Burns’s ire was raised by Mr. Douglas’s announcement Friday that the council will not include I-98, the proposed four-lane highway that would link Watertown to Plattsburgh, as a priority project for state funding.
In his response, Douglas said that the highway project would eventually be addressed in the planning process.
“I take no offense. I perfectly understand how passionate people get about their projects. I have never expressed opposition to any project or support of any project. We’re letting the process work.”
So what do you think? Can these volunteer advisory councils make decisions like this without courting controversy? Is consensus really possible on issues of this kind?
And in the final equation, is it better to have this debate going on here, in the North Country, rather than being decided in Albany?