County govt too big too fat too exclu...

County govt too big too fat too exclusive

Posted in the Herkimer Forum

county taxpayer

Malone, NY

#1 Mar 1, 2014
A top priority should be changing to the county charter to permit public referendums. Unbelievable we live in such a totalitarian county. This should make everyone sick.

GUEST VIEW: Herkimer County should consider an overhaul of its government

The recent State of the County address for Herkimer County included a call for local governments to earnestly seek ways to reduce the cost of government for a county with only 64,000 residents.

Posted Mar. 1, 2014 @ 3:15 am

The recent State of the County address for Herkimer County included a call for local governments to earnestly seek ways to reduce the cost of government for a county with only 64,000 residents.

Listening to this political call to arms were, among others, elected Herkimer County legislators who could easily take action to implement this noble cause – but they won’t. At least, not without severe prodding by the public.

The Herkimer County Legislature currently consists of 17 members. Niagara County – in the western part of the state, with a county government structure very closely resembling ours – has a 15-member Legislature representing 216,000 people.

The Niagara County Legislature formerly consisted of 19 members, but was downsized in January 2012 based on the results of a public referendum.(Another comparison: Onondaga County, with 467,000 people, has 17 legislators and a County Executive type government. The number of legislators was reduced from 24 to 17 by – surprise, surprise – public referendum.)

What’s wrong with this picture?

Are Herkimer County residents so hard to govern that we each need far more government oversight than Niagara County residents? This, in Herkimer County, one of the most politically conservative counties in New York state.

Let me remind you that conservative political policy is one that, above all else, calls for the smallest possible size of government.

Then, you ask, why hasn’t the public called for a reduction in the size of Herkimer County government through public referendum?

The answer is simple; our county charter does not allow it. Our charter was designed to block any influence of the general public on the make-up of its own government, a totally contradictory approach to a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

It is time for the Herkimer County charter to be changed. The solid wall that our Legislature has built around itself reflects the arrogant, hypocritical, self-important nature of this group.

We must now demand altruistic behavior, not the egotistic behavior that has so long been allowed to exist in the legislative chambers. There are so many issues to resolve: number of legislators, term limits, legislator salaries, dissolution of existing (free) legislator medical insurance agreements, election (not appointment) of the county administrator, changeover to a county executive system similar to Onondaga County, etc. I can’t wait for democracy to return to Herkimer County.

Joseph M. Belmont lives in Frankfort.

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