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New media changes Moriah town meeting dynamics

More information available; public participation down

Moriah residents are more informed, but less vocal at town board meetings. Supervisor Tom Scozzafava believes the reason lies in social media and the internet.

Moriah residents are more informed, but less vocal at town board meetings. Supervisor Tom Scozzafava believes the reason lies in social media and the internet.

— Drake challenged Scozzafava in the 1990s, running against him for supervisor. Scozzafava won, but welcomed the challenge.

“Through the years I’ve learned a lot from having open meetings,” the supervisor said. “People have brought issues to our attention that the town board didn’t even realize were issues. They’ve made constructive suggestions that the board may not have considered.

“The people who speak up at town board meetings represent the community, just like elected officials represent their constituents,” Scozzafava said.

Through the years Moriah’s open meeting approach has welcomed several out-spoken critics. Most recently, Lootz Burhart carried the mantle of skeptical citizen.

“Lootz always brought up issues that were important to the community,” Scozzafava said. “She always did her homework and was always respectful. She would call me before a meeting and tell me what she was planning an bringing up.”

There’s less public participation at meetings today, Scozzafava said, but that doesn’t mean there’s less public participation in local government.

“I get 30-40 Emails a day from constituents with concerns and ideas,” Scozzafava said. “When I started we were just learning how to use the fax machine. Today it’s a different world with the internet, Email, Facebook. Everything a town does is available on line.

“Our constituents are better informed today than ever before,” he added, “because so much more information is available.”

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