Oswego votes to increase participation on village commissions

Village president breaks tie vote

Oswego will boost the number of members on three village commissions to help make residents feel like they are more involved in local government.

During the Feb. 20 Oswego Village Board meeting, village trustees deadlocked on whether to increase the number of members on the Planning and Zoning Commission, Economic Development Commission and Cultural Arts Commission from seven to nine.

Voting “yes” were trustees Kit Kuhrt, Karin McCarthy-Lange and Andrew Torres. Voting “no” were trustees Karen Novy, Tom Guist and Jennifer Jones Sinnott.

Village President Ryan Kauffman broke the tie by voting “yes.” When asked in a recent community survey to rate their satisfaction with the level of involvement in local decision making, 28% were very satisfied or satisfied, 43.1% were neutral and 28.9% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. The 28% satisfaction rating represented a 7.7% reduction since the 2018 survey (35.7% satisfaction and a 4.7% reduction from the 2016 survey (32.7% satisfaction).

“Compared with other communities, Oswego’s rate was 5.9% lower than the national average (33.9% satisfaction) and 5.8% lower than the regional average (33.8% satisfaction),” Oswego Village Administrator Dan Di Santo said.

Kauffman said his idea was to get more people involved in the village’s boards and commission “so that people feel more partaking of the decision making in the community.”

“People want to feel connected and involved and I think it’s a mistake to tell them no,” he said. “There are a lot of quality people out there that are willing and able to serve. And we should give them an opportunity.”

But Guist had a different interpretation of what the survey said.

“I don’t share the opinion the survey was telling us this,” he said. “I don’t see the need to add people.”

Novy said she thought increasing the number of people on the Economic Development Commission and Cultural Arts Commission was a good idea. But she was against increasing the number of people on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Number one, that’s a cost impact to our village,” she said.

Members on that commission receive $50 in compensation for each meeting attended, so by adding two members there is a budget impact of approximately $1,200, Di Santo said.

In addition to adding members to the three commissions, the village plans to conduct community surveys every two years, make efforts to increase attendance at homeowners confederation meetings and hold quarterly resident meetings, ideally out in the community.

The homeowners confederation meets four times a year to discuss issues of public safety, development, and issues unique to homeowners associations with village staff.

Torres said he thought adding more members to the three commissioners made sense as the village continues to grow in population.