Editorial: Governance in abstentia

Our lead story this week deals with something of a prickly subject: Niskayuna Councilwoman Liz Orzel Kasper’s attendance record at Town Board meetings.

Some have raised questions about Kasper’s absence as a debate about building an indoor recreation center in the town continues. We also wondered about her roughly three-month hiatus, which is why we asked her about it when she recently returned to town and also spent time digging through years of meeting minutes to give our readers a more complete picture when it comes to her service.

No doubt some will think singling out Councilwoman Kasper to be unfair. Some might even call it a smear piece.

That’s certainly not the point of this week’s article. We are presenting to the people of Niskayuna the straight and simple facts, as well as giving Kasper a place to speak to her long record and explain where she’s been lately.

In over two decades of time on the board, we would well expect a person to rack up several absences. At the same time, when that person ducks out of town for five consecutive meetings and is, historically speaking, often the most-absent member of any board in the past two decades, that demands notice.

Kasper’s response when we asked her about her recent trip to Florida? After explaining the reason for it, she said nobody would have noticed or cared about her presence if it weren’t for the rec center controversy.

That may very well be true. The evidence seems to back it up. Kasper was absent from a quarter of the Town Board meetings last year and a third of the sessions taking place in 2009. Nobody raised any overt questions then, it seems. The world kept spinning.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

As resident Amy Howansky put it at a recent Town Board meeting, the people elected Kasper to be their representative. And that job requires one show up to where the representing is performed: namely, where votes are taken and policy is discussed.

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