Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 24 July 2009 00:00
Those who follow the Mineola Village Board meeting know Bill Urianek and Sal Cataldo as those who regularly attend the meeting and speak at the podium, addressing the mayor and the village board about a variety of issues. Until a few months ago, you could even see them on the cable access channels as the village’s public meetings were televised.
However, the mayor and the village board decided to no longer televise the public comment portion of the meetings after they deemed that comments made by certain residents at the public meeting were inappropriate for the television broadcast.
Currently, the Village of Mineola broadcasts its public hearings as well as board work sessions. It no longer broadcasts the public comments of regular meetings.
Urianek and Cataldo, both members of the Mineola Civic Association, plan on circulating petitions around the village in an effort to persuade the mayor and the village board to get the public comments of the meetings back on the air.
In March, Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins and the Village of Mineola Board of Trustees unanimously decided to take the public meetings off the air. However, the mayor and the board decided the village would continue to televise work sessions and public hearings. The village board continued to hold public meetings as it always had, except the public comments would not be on TV. The decision not to televise public comments came after the mayor and the board felt that comments made during the public session of the meetings became personal and hurtful, mainly towards a few of the village employees.
Mayor Martins instituted the televising of village meetings when he became mayor in 2003 as a way to keep the public informed of what was happening in the village and to create a more open government. For six years, residents could see their fellow residents speak at public meetings in the comfort of their own homes. But the mayor and the board felt that the time came when the concept to televise public meetings was being abused by some residents.
This came after a few residents alleged that one of the department heads in the village was having a romantic relationship with one of the employees in the same office. When the employees names were mentioned at the public meeting that was broadcasted on TV, the mayor and village board made a decision to pull the plug on televising public comments because of its potential to be hurtful.
“The opportunity to go out there and hurt people in a very personal way cannot continue and will not continue,” Mayor Martins said at the time of the decision.
Urianek and Cataldo both feel that it is important to televise the meetings so that the public remains informed of what is happening in the village. While the village board’s work sessions and public hearings are still being televised, both civic members feel it’s important for public comments to be aired as well.
Mayor Martins’ policy for public meetings still allows a resident to address the board for as long as he or she wants for as many times as he or she wants.