Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For the last five months, Richard Bertrand has been a man on a mission.
His goal: To make the City of Lockport Housing Authority as transparent as possible.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said, noting that he’s never been politically active.
Bertrand, an artist who turns 67 on Monday, has been living in an apartment provided by the housing authority for three years. Over a year ago, he moved from The Spires on Ontario Street to Willow Gardens on Willow Street.
After talking to a fellow tenant who mentioned the authority’s Board of Commissioners, Bertrand became “curious,” and started asking other tenants what they knew about the board, and more specifically, the tenant representatives who serve on the board.
What he found, he said, is that most residents didn’t know who their tenant representatives were, and didn’t think they were allowed to attend the board’s meetings.
“The board of commissioner meetings, which are public meetings, were not being publicized,” he said. “I looked around one day and saw nothing in the paper. They don’t have a website, and there was nothing in the newsletters or bulletins.”
In January, Bertrand started going to the meetings, asking questions and filing Freedom Of Information Law requests. His persistence, along with some correspondence with New York State’s Committee on Open Government, is changing the way the housing authority is advertising meetings, making them more accessible to the public.
“They should welcome the public instead of being less than encouraging,” Bertrand said.
In a Feb. 7 letter to the housing authority and Bertrand, from the Committee on Open Government, Assistant Director Camille S. Jobin-Davis outlined several provisions from section 104 of the Open Meetings Law to Kevin Bancroft, executive director of the housing authority. According to the letter, notice of a public meeting must be posted in “one or more conspicuous, public locations” and that notice of the meeting must be given to the media. The committee will be rendering an advisory decision on the matter in the coming months.