How does one even begin to address the governmental fiasco being perpetrated on our community by a majority of the Town of New Paltz and Village of New Paltz elected officials? Reaction on the part of citizens to the recent behavior of these officials at public meetings ranges from disbelief to outrage. The officials are demonstrating that they lack basic problem-solving and decision-making skills while falling prey to a pattern of ‘learned helplessness’ through their overdependence on outside paid consultants and their failure to hold them accountable for providing clear, unambiguous and unbiased information.
A lawsuit recently filed against the village government by Plains Road residents whose water supplies were disrupted, and a resolution passed by the school district accusing the town government of a lack of transparency regarding the potential siting of a sewage treatment plant adjacent to the high school are but the most recent examples of outcomes which demonstrate a lack of trust and confidence in both boards. Rather than benefiting from what their government is doing for them, citizens are nervous about what they see their government doing to them. Something is broken in New Paltz and it will take more than a “Repair Café” to fix it.
Speaking of which, I would like to acknowledge the wonderful contribution that events such as the Repair Café make to our town. My woeful track record of successfully fixing things that go wrong around the house is a matter of some humor in our family. When our vacuum cleaner broke, my wife declared that she was taking it to the Repair Café. Two hours later she returned with a fully functioning vacuum and announced that the experience had been “so much fun.”
I learned that volunteer “repair coaches” will fix “your beloved but broken item” for free and that you are invited to bring a food item for Family of New Paltz. Repair coaches will attempt to fix mechanical, electrical, electronic and wood items, clothing and textiles, dolls and stuffed animals, jewelry and digital devices.
I was told about the children’s take-apart table and the blanket on the floor next to it, on which several children sprawled happily taking apart various devices, using tools under the supervision of an adult. I heard about the small table and two chairs with the sign inviting you to simply sit and talk, and let’s not forget the chair massage. I learned there was a table of free items and racks of free clothing. Tea and coffee are free, cookies and brownies cost a dollar, and a piece of fruit is 50 cents.
Although I was of course thrilled that the vacuum cleaner was repaired, that success turned out to be just a small part of what made the experience so much fun. Equally important was the sense of community spirit, the camaraderie and the laughter. And in the midst of all of this cooperation, conviviality and downright decency, goals were achieved and positive outcomes realized.
For more information on the Repair Café, call John at 646-302-5835 or check out their Facebook page at Repair Café-Hudson Valley.
For more information on repairing our New Paltz government, we need to turn to the tried and true remedies available to us in a democracy. Citizen involvement, attending meetings, communicating directly and personally with elected officials, reading the newspaper and sending letters to the editor will begin to turn things around.
Consider running for office and urging respected acquaintances to do the same. This will provide fresh faces and new ideas as antidotes to the moribund practices and appalling behavior we are currently witnessing.
Finally, voting in the village and town elections in numbers that have never been seen before will help. Let’s aim to double the number of voters at the polls this May and November. Our governments are in disrepair, but they can be fixed, and we have the tools.