All MRAC meetings are at two in the afternoon, on Tuesdays. Yes, it has been mentioned that there would be better attendance if they were in the evening. Basically, the DEC employees do not want to stay late, and there may also be over-time considerations.
Setauket is the mainoffice of the Marine District,so that's where they hold the meetings. Also, it is in the middle of the Island, basically, so it is theoretically centrally located for most saltwater fishermen. I know it is far from the East End, but when I lived in Babylon, it was too far East for me. A Manhattan meeting might draw a lot of people, but probably not the important ones. I think the location is the best available, but the time is very poor. I would enjoy holding a seat, or at the very least be at every meeting, but I cannot give up the second Tuesday of every month in advance.
As for attendance, there is really not that much room for many more people, even though many express interest in attending. The room probably holds 80 or 100 persons, and is usually full at any meetings w/ any meat in their content.
As for public comment, there is nothing stopping people from writing letters or e-mails during the comment period. They do get read. Most people who go to the meetings don't get a chance to comment, anyways, there are so many, so a well-written letter will certainly serve one's interests better.
Lastly, Mike, I would say that the MRAC members do listen to what the fishermen have to say, and usually do a good job of balancing the users interests w/ the managers requirements. However, we all know that we cannot have whatever we want, and, unfortunately, the DEC only gets the recommendation of the MRAC- ultimately they do as they feel is "best."
A lot of your comments ring true, even for the RIMFAC. But the cost and inconvience of overtime is something where I think they need to get their priorities straight. It may be "inconvient" for what 4 or 6 DEC employees, vs the councillors and public who wish to attend who probably number 50 or more. Where's the equity in that?
As far as the venue goes, if the room is too small they can use a state university room. The RIMFAC meeting are held in a small auditorium on the URI campus.
I also agree that letters are much more effective than comments st the meeting, and I would also add that well thoguht out and presented comments are much more effective than rants.
I'll take you word on the geography of the situation, but it seems to me that if some of the councillors can travel from the east end for these meetings then maybe the other could also travel a little ways to make the meeting more accessable to the public. Just sitting in these meeting can be very educational for the average fishermen and could also serve to abate a lot of the discontent at having regulations "shoved down our throat."
Anyway, those are just some observations from a guy on the outside looking in. If you guys want something changed you are the ones that are going to have to work to change it.