Things that Force You To Say, "What?"

Clueless and Now Illiterate Too, RIOC Pushes Back from Residents. Maybe.

Updated 4 weeks ago David Stone

Scrambled eggs inspired by RIOC.
Scrambled eggs inspired by RIOC.

The Daily's newest installment of Things That Force You To Say, "What?" takes a look at bizarre illiteracy on the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation's website. The public seems to be invited to "Speak Up" at Board Meetings - as long as they don't, you know, speak up.

Announcements from RIOC are frequently sprinkled with illiteracy, demonstrating how hard it is to cover certain tracks and mislead effectively, but even in an era plagued with lawyerly evasions, this one takes the cake. It can't even be called "misleading," because that pesky element leading is not clearly present.

Clueless and Now Illiterate Too, RIOC Pushes Back from Residents. Maybe.
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First, though, for readers who don't have a dictionary handy, here are a pair of definitions you may need.

Colloquy: conversation

Obviate: Prevent

RIOC's Public Disclaimer

In my dictionary, a disclaimer is defined as "a statement that denies something, especially responsibility." RIOC, dominated by lawyers lacking casual communication skills under President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, is already good at that but usually without openly saying so.

Keep that in mind as you read, or struggle to read, the following "Disclaimer" added to the bottom of registration forms for speaking before RIOC Board Meetings.

Ready? Hold onto your figurative hats.

Disclaimer:
A 30-45 minute public comment period wherein those who sought to address the Board would have pre-registered, with time for any speaker limited to two (2) minutes. Pre-registration would be accomplished by addressing RIOC at its web site or in person at RIOC's office prior to the day of the meeting. Public comment should be for the purpose of receiving comment, not to engage in debate or colloquy with board members. The Chair would control the time and limit for each speaker.

By scheduling the public comment period as above, the town hall style session following alternate Board meetings should be obviated. The RIRA meetings now held the evenings before each Board could function as the equivalent of a town hall meeting, with Board members attending as they wish, but with the expectation that a senior RIOC staff person would also attend to answer questions on Agenda items.

Things That Force You To Say, "What?"

Leading off with an incomplete sentence, the one beginning with "A 30-45 minute...", does not bode well for whatever follows. It's a conditional clause that doesn't go anywhere, a tributary without a river, a broad street that ends in a field, a Manny Machado hustle to first base...

You get the feeling they wanted to go someplace, sort of speculatively, but got distracted. Maybe it was lunchtime. Who knows?

Then, it goes on to speculate about how a "Pre-registration" might work but actually describes a process long in place. It comes off like a dream sequence. What if...?

Next comes this gem that really needs to be repeated in full to get the flavor: "Public comment should be for the purpose of receiving comment, not to engage in debate or colloquy with board members.," the disclaimer scolds. 

Public comment should be for the purpose of receiving comment...? What?

Isn't the purpose of public comment to, you know, comment? Receiving comment is, unknown to RIOC, precisely the opposite.

Things That Force You To Say, "What?" Part II

"By scheduling the public comment period as above, the town hall style session following alternate Board meetings should be obviated."

What?

Specifically, what "town hall session" following what "alternate Board meetings?"

While we're at it, what the hell's an "alternate Board meeting?" Are their shadow meetings we don't know about or did someone just spit the bit?

Things That Force You To Say, "What?" Part III

"The RIRA meetings now held the evenings before each Board could function as the equivalent of a town hall meeting, with Board members attending as they wish, but with the expectation that a senior RIOC staff person would also attend to answer questions on Agenda items."

Regarding the speculation about "RIRA meetings now held the evenings before each Board," you've gotta wonder, what meetings? And before each Board what? Hiccup? Guffaw? Shrinking away from responsibility? Summer break? What?

The remainder of that sentence isn't possible to unpack by minds not muddied in government service. It's not even RIOC-speak. But let me take an educated guess.

At the RIRA Common Council's last session, RIOC Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson sacrificed an evening to attend on orders from management. He expected to be yelled at, which proved false.

My guess is that RIOC hopes to keep comments out of monthly Board Meetings by taking over Common Council Meetings. An unidentified senior staff person might show up - or might not. Likewise Board Members. 

No promises, though, kids.

A senior resident calls this a "...new masterpiece from RIOC!!!!!"

That it is, a unmatchable bumble of incomplete thought and evasion. 

RIOC's run by lawyers without skills at community development of casual conversation. That's clear enough.

But if they want to distance themselves even farther from the community, they could simply have told us to get lost. That, at least, would have the ring of a genuine expression of intent.

Clueless and Now Illiterate Too, RIOC Pushes Back from Residents. Maybe.
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