Monday, September 19, 2016

A violation of the Sunshine Law? UPDATED THREE TIMES

Commissioners,

The other day, I asked about the block party ordinance and when it was passed. No response from any of the commissioners. I would like a response so that I may read the actual ordinance.

I have noticed a change on the municipal website regarding the actual block party ordinance. It now reads:
Also, permits will not be granted for highway, arterial or collector streets without review and approval of the Mt. Lebanon Police Department. Because of the volume of traffic on these streets block parties can cause unnecessary traffic restrictions and can present safety challenges to people residing along these streets. BLOCK PARTIES ARE NOT PERMITTED ON HALLOWEEN DUE TO SAFETY CONCERNS. 
It once read:
Also, permits will not be granted for highway, arterial or collector streets. Because of the volume of traffic on these streets block parties cause unnecessary traffic restrictions and can present safety challenges to people residing along these streets.
Who approved the amendment of this ordinance? When did you vote on it? Did you hold a public meeting? Also noted on the municipal website under block parties, Last Modified: Sep 6, 2016 10:20 AM Was this in time for the Sleepy Hollow block party? I did have this post on my blog last year, when exceptions were made for the Sleepy Hollow block party last year. Special rules for special people

I hope to hear from the commissioners since you are the ones who pass the ordinances.

Elaine Gillen

Update September 19, 2016 5:30 PM I heard back from my commissioner, Steve McLean and from Keith McGill. To the "anonymous" Sleepy Hollow block party attendee, sign your name and you will be published. But if you had signed your name in all of your personal attacks, I mean "comments," I'm reasonably sure that you wouldn't have been so rude. By the way, you were the only one, "Anonymous."

From Steve McLean:

Elaine, 
The ordinance was not changed that allows the municipal manager authority to temporarily close municipal streets for special occasions. That remains.  The framework for which block parties are handled has been adjusted to provide consistency and allow the police to review the request.  I'd have to check my notes for when this was brought.  
Steve McLean
3rd Ward Commissioner 

From Keith McGill:

Good afternoon Elaine, 
Commissioner McLean is correct. Additionally there is no ordinance related to block parties. The language that was previously on the municipal website was the result of a discussion a few years ago when the municipality started to notice an increasing number of requests for block parties on Halloween. I believe this was some time in 2011. As part of this discussion the issue of arterial and collector streets was also discussed. The result of those discussions was the language that was then placed on the municipal website related to block party applications. I also believe the associated fee went into effect in roughly the same time frame. 
The change to the language was at my suggestion after discussing the issue with Chief Lauth and Public Works Director Sukal. I sent the suggested language to the Commission for their review and recommendation. The Commission was in agreement with the change.The language now provides for a review by Public Safety for any block party applications received for arterial or collector streets to determine if the issuance of the permit would create any public safety concerns. If there is a public safety issue or concern related to the issuance of the permit the application is denied. If there is not it may be issued. The amendment to the language is in keeping with the original intent when the restriction was put in place. 
The permit that was issued for Sleepy Hollow had nothing to do with the change to the language  it was issued based on a prior determination that this segment of Sleepy Hollow is not an arterial street.  
Keith
Update September 19, 2016 7:46 PM Keith McGill followed up with:
From:Keith Mcgill <kmcgill@mtlebanon.org>
To:egillen476 <egillen476@aol.com>
Cc:Stephen McLean <smclean@mtlebanon.org>; Commission <commission@mtlebanon.org>; Rep. Dan Miller <repmiller@pahouse.net>
Subject:Re: block parties
Date:Mon, Sep 19, 2016 7:29 pm

Good evening Elaine,

The change to the language on the website was made to better reflect the intent of the restriction and provide for a process for applications for these type of streets to be reviewed. This language is not part of an adopted ordinance or a formally adopted commission policy.

As to your question, I do not believe this would apply to all of the streets listed as collector or arterial.

Keith


On Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 5:53 PM, egillen476@aol.com <egillen476@aol.com> wrote:
Keith,

I didn't realize that this could be done without a public meeting. You should also review your list of streets and let the public know that there are segments of arterial and collector streets that are not arterial or collectors. By definition, wouldn't that apply to all of the streets that you listed?
I sent the suggested language to the Commission for their review and recommendation. The Commission was in agreement with the change.
Update September 21, 2016 7:08 AM Uh, I think the Commission violated the Sunshine Act.

Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act: The Basics The basic requirement of the Act is simple: Any time a government body (referred to within in the act as an “agency”) holds a meeting in which “deliberation” or “official action” by a quorum of its members takes place, the meeting must be open to the public after public notice of the meeting. Each of these provisions can be described in more detail.

What is “Deliberation” Under the Act? The Act defines “deliberation” as “the discussion of agency business held for the purpose of making a decision.” 65 PA. CONS. STAT. § 703. The definition is a simple one and has been construed as such by courts of the Commonwealth.

4 comments:

Jason Margolis said...

We all know that the MTL Commissioners do not need to vote on any changes in ordinances, and that the staff can make and enforce the rules at will.

This will not change until we have a mayoral system in MTL.

E. T. Gillen said...

This was my response to Keith:

I didn't realize that this could be done without a public meeting. You should also review your list of streets and let the public know that there are segments of arterial and collector streets that are not arterial or collectors. By definition, wouldn't that apply to all of the streets that you listed?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Elaine All streets other than arterials are generally designated as non-arterial (local) streets, which provide local accesses. The classification of a roadway often determines eligibility for grant funding. Typically, granting agencies fund projects only on arterials. Similarly, roadway classification influences the types of traffic improvements the City will construct on a street. For example, arterials are not eligible for traffic calming features although there was a traffic study for Sleepy Hollow Road.

The US Department of Transportation has a 70 pg. document describing
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/processes/statewide/related/highway_functional_classifications/fcauab.pdf Figure 3-4 illustrates the hierarchy or classifications of roads. (p. 24)

You are correct. Streets are either designated arterial or non-arterial.

Anonymous said...

They change the classifications of streets when they feel like it; this is one of the methods they use to corrupt traffic studies. Residents don't usually realize this because they don't review the traffic study results in detail; why would they? Most people have no idea to suspect this level of deceit.