Want to think again, APA?

There’s a nice article in the local weekly about the latest flare-up between the Adirondack Park Agency and the locals.  In this case, the Local Government Review Board.  The Review Board consists of delegates from each of the counties within the Adirondack Park, and their function is to advise the Governor on issues regarding the Adirondack Park.  Recently, the Chairman of the Board sent a white paper to the governor that was strongly critical of the Adirondack Park Agency.

The APA’s Chairman, Curt Stiles, was stung by the criticism and took exception to it:

Stiles fired off a memo to the Review Board that, among other things, says, “I no longer believe the Local Government Review Board …. has a reasonable consensus or mandate from individual towns inside the Park.”

Which turned out to be one of the more spectacular ways he could have stepped in it.  What happened was that every town and county government inside the Park promptly proved him wrong, by passing resolutions of support for the Board.   As I posted a while back, the APA is under intense scrutiny and there is a serious debate going on as to whether it should (or can) be reformed or abolished.  This more recent blow-up is just another of a long-running series of battles.

The APA and the Local Government Review Board have, since that, managed to calm down, and conciliatory noises are being made from the APA.  But, the problems that caused this to happen still exist, and they demonstrate one of the real issues that many people inside the Adirondacks have with the APA.  There is a “bubble” that the commissioners seem to exist in.  Many of them are from the same area, belong (or belonged) to the same environmental organizations, and as a result, are not representative of the Adirondacks themselves.  Add in that, for the most part, the state has left them to their own devices, and it’s a recipe for conflicts.

The purpose of the APA, as originally designed, is a good one.  Most people inside the Adirondacks, if asked, would tell you it’s not a bad idea.  The problem has been with the actual implementation, and the actions.  If there is to be reform, the APA’s board must be more representative of the residents of the Adirondacks.  Although the requirement is for 5 of the eleven members to be “full-time residents of the Adirondacks,” the make-up has leaned heavily towards members of various environmental advocacy groups.  3 of the current commissioners were previously board members of the Adirondack Council, including Chairman Stiles.  A fourth, whose nomination is pending, is a member of yet another advocacy group.  That does not make it “representative” of the Adirondack Park as a whole, and has led to the strong feeling – with justification -that the APA is just an arm of advocacy groups, interested in moving their agenda, instead of a neutral regulatory agency.

If there’s one thing that should come out of this, it’s that the APA should listen to the message that the locals are sending to it.   The existence of the agency itself may be on the line.

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