You’ll hear it in classrooms, ballgames and local government meetings, but one place you won’t hear the Pledge of Allegiance is at New Paltz town planning board meetings.
At their Monday, March 14 meeting, planners voted 4-3 to pass on adding the pledge to the board’s meeting agendas.
It was initially proposed by board member Amy Cohen, who said the pledge helps her transition into the mental space of performing her duties as part of the government. She was one of the last independent police commissioners before the town council absorbed those responsibilities, and the pledge was recited at those meetings.
Board member Lyle Nolan, who voted against adding the pledge, said he wasn’t opposed to people reciting it, but, “To me it’s a total waste of time,” and would create group pressure that could divide a board which functions well. “I don’t think we need that,” he added.
Planner Michael Zierler, who also voted against reciting the pledge, noted that the pledge was not required for planning board meetings under state law, although he believed it is at meetings of elected boards. (Attorney George Lithco said he was not sure.) Zierler also said that, if it were approved, he was convinced that in time “it would become routine, like approving the minutes.” He was, however, also concerned it could cause conflict.
Cohen said that she’d heard from community members, including veterans, who supported the idea. Resident MaryAnn Tozzi had been encouraging people to send in letters in support of adding the pledge, but none had been received by the board’s secretary by the time the meeting was called to order Monday night.
Board member Adele Ruger pointed out that the act only takes about 15 seconds of time. Board member Tom Powers was also in support of adding the pledge.
Board chairman Mike Calimano, noting that he was both a veteran and “a child of the Sixties,” said he would vote in support of reciting the pledge only if all board members would at least agree to stand, because he did not wish to cause a rift on the board.
“As a child of a child of the Sixties,” said board member Lagusta Yearwood, “I was taught not to stand.”
Only Powers, Ruger and Cohen voted in favor of starting the meeting with the pledge.