Upsizing the Hamburg Town Board makes sense; the minor minor parties add ballot positions

The Buffalo News yesterday reported on the efforts of Hamburg resident Barbara Rogers and others who are seeking to “upsize” the Hamburg Town Board to five members from the current three. Ms. Rogers has presented a petition with more than 500 signatures on it, requesting the current Board to put the upsize proposition on this November’s ballot. The board members, it has been suggested, had previously supported that effort, and from what I have heard so did the party organizations in the town.

Time is running out on getting the proposition before the voters. The town attorney says he is working with the Board of Elections on the language that would appear on the ballot. Since putting the proposition on the ballot does not finally determine the matter, it would be hard to understand anyone opposing the option of letting the voters decide. But not putting this issue on the ballot would not be a first in the world of politics.

Hamburg, like several other local municipalities, several years ago went along with the idea of activist Kevin Gaughan that there were too many elected officials collecting paychecks, so let’s cut the number of council members. West Seneca and Alden attempted to “upsize” their town after they went along with cutting their boards, but the voters in those towns decided to stay with just three member boards.

Hamburg town council members are each paid $9,605 per year. There are some minor related state pension and federal payroll tax costs for the positions. The annual town budget in 2015 is $15.9 million. That puts the minor savings of the council positions in perspective.

While most people want governments to spend as little as possible, there are some basic expenses that cannot be avoided. Add to that there are some expenses that should not be avoided because they make the government run better.

There has certainly been something going on in Hamburg over the past several years at the town and school district level that would seem to suggest the idea that Hamburgtonians (Hamburgers, Hamburgites??) might like to smooth out the operation of things. That is where the upsizing of the town board comes into the picture.

A three-member legislative body is a solution seeking a problem. The State Freedom of Information law prescribes rules for how legislative bodies must conduct their business. A majority of the body constitutes a quorum, and if there is a quorum then any meeting or discussion is required to be in public. So supervisor A cannot speak with councilmember B about whether to add item number 27 to the meeting agenda unless the public is notified and the discussion is out in the open. Absurd.

There has not been even a hint I am aware of that any of the local three-member boards have done anything illegal or inappropriate. But when two public officials can all by themselves set agendas, approve budgets, purchases and contracts, it seems that the danger of doing something wrong increases.

It is in the interests of good government to upsize the Hamburg Town Board, and there is certainly no reason to not let the voters decide the question again since the proposition can simply be added to the November election ballot at no cost. A good idea, simple to resolve.

The minor, minor parties on the November ballot

I have previously written about activities of the two new minor parties that were created as the result of the 2014 gubernatorial election. The Rob Astorino inspired Reform (nee Stop Common Core) Party last month issued Certificates of Nomination for more than 80 Erie County local candidates who happened to be Republicans, allowing them to appear on the ballot as Reform candidates.

The deadline for issuing Certificates of Nomination this year was yesterday, September 15th. On September 14th sixteen Democratic candidates in Erie County filed Certificates of Nomination under the Andrew Cuomo created Women’s Equality Party (WEP). The candidates include County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Family Court candidate Kelly Brinkworth.

Not to be outdone, Republican Party Family Court candidate Brenda Freedman, who won five spots on the November ballot on primary night, added a sixth line, Reform, on September 14th.

When a new party is created by the results of the gubernatorial election the party does not officially come into being until the party adopts rules. The rules must be adopted by a majority of the candidates who ran on that party’s line in the gubernatorial election.

For the Women’s Equality Party the four people who ran under that banner in 2014 were Andrew Cuomo, Kathy Hochul, Eric Schniederman and Thomas DiNapoli. At least three of them would need to sign off on the WEP rules to get the party started.

The News also reported yesterday that in Niagara County a court case was decided about some Niagara county Republicans and Democrats trying to get on the WEP line for county legislature. Justice Frank Caruso ruled that could not happen since only Cuomo and Hochul had signed off on WEP rules, so the party could not be recognized. That contradicts what happened in Erie County.

The WEP cannot exist in Erie County but not in Niagara, so something needs to be straightened out here. In one of the most boring election cycles in memory the fate of the Reform and Women’s Equality Party does not rise to anything significant. But, heh, we need to discuss something while waiting for next Ray Walter’s next position paper.

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