The 2009 political campaign moved into the Bethlehem Town Hall last night after a motion calling for an open government task force was shot down, causing a lengthy debate that pit one councilman against the rest of the board.
Councilman Sam Messina, who is running against Supervisor Jack Cunningham for the top seat, went head to head with the rest of the board on a number of issues after his motion to increase citizen access to information and improve agenda dissemination did not receive a second motion.
Without a second, no vote could be taken and the motion was not carried.
The other four members of the board said they agreed with certain aspects of Messina's proposals but cited various reasons why they could not support the measure including finances, logistics, other priorities and having already looked into the suggestions in the past.
Cunningham said he wanted to make clear he was "all for community participation," but said many of the proposals were not financially feasible during a time of economic crisis.
Messina made his motion during the "other business" portion of the meeting.
"I'm going to make a motion to appoint a study group to look at opportunities to increase public access and participation in Bethlehem government," he said.
In addition to the resolution for a study group picked by the board, Messina proposed conducting a handful of Town Board meetings in different parts of town; Web-casting the meetings live on the Internet; providing more information on the agenda; and providing the public with electronic access to attachments to agenda items available to board members.
"The point is that the goal of increased public attendance and participation at Town Board meetings and other activities of Bethlehem are so important that we ought to carefully weigh and then perhaps try some new approaches, even if they are non-traditional," Messina wrote in a letter to his board colleagues.