Politicians are nothing if not predictable. First, they fought mightily to deny folks the right to shrink local government. Now they lamely claim they can’t live with less and need to reinflate.
Voters in West Seneca and Alden decide on Election Day whether to “upsize.” You can bet that politicians in other downsized burgs are watching with lip-licking interest.
Call it “The Return of the Bloat Monster.” From out of the muck it came, refusing to die, sucking down your tax dollars. You can run, but, apparently, you can’t hide.
Voters in six towns and one village in recent years cut their governing boards down to size. The man behind the movement was civic activist Kevin Gaughan. Since most town and village boards did not willingly allow people to vote on downsizing, the Buffalo attorney and volunteers gathered enough petition signatures to force the issue.
The motive behind the movement: Our countywide army of 400-plus politicians, in a redundant abundance of village/town/city governments, is a waste of tax dollars that sabotages a wider, regional vision. Plenty of more prosperous communities nationally do better with fewer politicians. Even so, members of some downsized, three-member boards say that it isn’t working. To my mind, only folks with short memories or large imaginations are buying it.
Hundreds of communities across the country do just fine with three-member boards. Beyond that, the lengths these politicians went to stop downsizing undercuts their credibility. The way I see it, they never wanted to do it, and will use any excuse to try to undo it.
West Seneca was Exhibit A. Not only was the board forced to put downsizing to a vote, it tried in court – at taxpayer expense – to keep the issue off the ballot. Indeed, across various towns and villages, the anti-downsizing tactics were a primer in political dirty tricks: Cut voting hours. Limit polling places. Uproot pro-downsizing signs. Refuse to hold the vote on the same day as a wider election (believing at the time that it would result in a higher percentage of voters with ties to the town).
Time and again, we saw politicians undermining the interests of the people they’re paid to represent. So when the same crowd says the downsized boards are not workable, they’re about as believable as Geppetto’s creation.
Look no further than the ease with which the “upsizing” question got on the ballot in West Seneca. A petition drive to put the question to a vote failed. So the Town Board simply put it on the ballot. No fuss, no muss. Why? Because, unlike downsizing, this is what these politicians want. More members, more patronage, more power.
Gaughan said the cumulative downsizing saved taxpayers $5.2 million in jettisoned political salaries, benefits and pensions. But self-serving politicians are trying to turn back the clock. Now playing: “The Return of the Bloat Monster.” Apparently, even bad movies get a sequel.