To the editor:
(re: “Past, present, future … public deserves to know,” Aug. 2)
While I certainly stand by the principle of transparency in government, I was rather surprised by the reporting in The Riverdale Press regarding the recent $1,300 payment by Community Board 8 for a large hall to conduct a hearing on the Hebrew Home development.
While the coverage in The Press was replete with suggestions of some impropriety in this payment, in the end, I was pleased to note that the editors did not conclude that the payment was unreasonable. That is hardly surprising, as most people would agree that given the importance of the issue, the turnout, the need for a convenient venue and the timeframe, this was an appropriate expenditure.
As for the process, anyone who is aware of CB8 and its activities recognizes — and The Press itself acknowledges — that chair Rosemary Ginty is a fierce advocate of transparency, and she routinely raises financial issues with the executive committee. In this instance, while she openly discussed this matter with the officers, the land use chair, and several other board members, she did not deem it necessary to take up time in an already lengthy executive committee to discuss a $1,300 expense.
Although The Press believes that judgment should have been made differently, that hardly makes Ginty’s judgment wrong or insidious. For that reason, I found the attack that was leveled against Chair Ginty in the editorial to be unwarranted and unnecessarily incendiary for a newspaper with the stature of The Press.
Moreover, in the rush to judgment, The Press misses the real story. For example, The Press fails to emphasize the fact that CB8 has managed to be such an effective steward of public funds that, over the last four years, with numerous meetings each month, this is the first time that it has had to rent a space.
And that storyline would not be possible without the generosity of our local institutions providing space free of charge.
Another important element of the story is the 14 meetings that CB8 has held over the years addressing the Hebrew Home project, which required the steadfast commitment of the CB8 board members and concerned members of the community.
In sum, while $1,300 to rent a room is hardly insignificant, it was a reasonable expense which was incurred after an appropriate process. But without question, it pales in comparison to the spirit of civic-minded volunteerism and generosity among the people and institutions of CB8 that keep our discourse on local affairs pointed and robust, and make our community such a unique place to live and work.
The author is vice chair of Community Board 8.