By The Editorial Board
It’s that time of year – the days are getting shorter, there are holiday decorations everywhere and townships and boroughs are passing annual budgets for the coming year.
We at Gazette 2.0 won’t bore you with the details of those finances here – that’s for the next issue! This editorial is about accessibility and how some municipalities make it easy for residents to view the budget, while others don’t.
Stowe has its preliminary budget posted on the front page of the township website – (we gave Stowe a few lumps on the front page, but they deserve a hat tip here.)
McKees Rocks does not have it posted on the website but did provide the preliminary budget immediately when asked – same day, even. It’s also available to look at in the office.
Carnegie is waiting until the budget is passed to post the info online, but past years are available for viewing and a copy is available in office, too.
Coraopolis has a tab on its website. You can look at past years’ budgets, and view a copy in the office.
Robinson officials have passed the township budget, and you can view it now.
Then you get to Kennedy…
On the township website it says:
“The logo, ‘A great place to live, work and worship’ is not just idle words; it is an accurate portrayal of the community, its people, and way of life. Here, you will find amenities that are indeed rare commodities of today; one of the lowest taxes in Allegheny County, excellent school district, one of the lowest crime rates, exceptional Township services and a scenic park.”
You certainly will find those amenities in Kennedy Township, but there are few amenities to be found on the website itself. For instance, the budget simply is not there. Repeated requests to have it emailed to a Gazette 2.0 reporter haven’t produced any results, either.
Moving on to meetings, there are three agendas available for perusal in the agenda section, one from 2021, the other from the beginning of 2022. Other municipalities post meeting agendas and minutes on the official website – in fact, all of them do. Normally, local governments offer online agendas prior to meetings in order to encourage participation from residents. Also, it’s a requirement of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law.
“If the agency has a website or other social media platform that is publicly accessible, the agenda must be posted there. Postings are also required at the agency’s offices, at the meeting site; and copies of the agenda must be available for the public at the meeting itself,” according to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records website.
The Kennedy Township website does not. But its spectacularly unhelpful qualities don’t just extend to violating Pennsylvania law.
The email address listed on the website, firstname.lastname@example.org, does not take emails. Any emails sent always seem to bounce back, with this message at the top: “The group “info” only accepts messages from people in its organization or on its allowed sender's list, and your email address isn't on the list.”
Well, why on earth would it be if I am a resident asking a question from outside the organization?
One of our reporters brought this up to new Manager Greg Clarke, and he found the same thing happened when he sent an email, too. Clarke reassured the reporter he was trying to get it fixed, and even mentioned the prospect of a new website for Kennedy in the coming year.
We don’t know how much they have budgeted for that because…you get the idea.
When residents do show up to a meeting in Kennedy, they get a bit of a scolding in print when they sign in to speak, reminding them of the strict time limit. That’s true of Stowe as well, but in Stowe the constituents typically feel comfortable scolding back. There are usually people who want to speak up and frankly, complain. Sometimes it’s about speeders, sometimes it’s about sewage or trash. Sometimes it’s about the commissioners themselves. It can be frustrating because those solutions aren’t easy to find, but it’s also a sign of people who aren’t afraid to let themselves be known.
Crankiness is the sound of your democracy at work.
Most municipalities have that person who comes to every meeting – Stush Papst, we’re looking at you – who points out the township doesn’t put up lights like they used to or mentions there are dumpsters that just aren’t being emptied – Hello, Maribeth Taylor.
There isn’t usually this type of engagement during meetings in Kennedy Township. There usually isn’t any back-and-forth engagement at all.
Commissioners in Kennedy don’t really hear resident feedback – unless it’s of the grateful variety. At the Dec. 8 meeting, Tax Collector Mel Weinstein read aloud thank you notes he has received from happy constituents.
Perhaps he would receive more if there was a functioning email address on the township website.