Kevin Gaughan – civic activist and advocate for downsizing local government – hit the streets of West Seneca and Alden on Saturday, asking voters to preserve the victories of three years ago that reduced by two the number of Town Board members in both communities.
Voters in both towns will decide Tuesday on whether to bring back those board seats, after ballot propositions were initiated to undo the government downsizing of 2009.
But Gaughan, who spearheaded the downsizing movement, was on the offensive again.
The 58-year-old lawyer from Buffalo went door-to-door in Alden and West Seneca neighborhoods on Saturday, distributing leaflets and appealing to residents to vote down the upsizing initiative on Tuesday.
Gaughan was upbeat about the feedback he received.
“I think, to the average West Seneca and Alden resident, adding more politicians while we continue to lose population and jobs makes no sense,” Gaughan said.
In Alden, it was citizen activist Gary Wagner who solicited the signatures to get the upsizing vote on Tuesday’s ballot, but officials admit the three-member board can slow down town business.
Since two of three board members creates a quorum, board members can’t legally talk about town business – even casually – outside of officially convened public meetings, said Alden Supervisor Harry “Bud” Milligan.
“That makes it difficult,” Milligan said Saturday, “but if that’s what the people want, we’ll live with it. Whatever the people decide is fine with me.”
In West Seneca, the Town Board has lamented the limitations it faces with only three members and passed a resolution calling for Tuesday’s vote on the board’s size.
Gaughan on Saturday afternoon targeted streets off Center Road, where he stopped to talk to a resident blowing leaves to the curb on Warren Avenue.
The man immediately recognized Gaughan.
“I see you on TV,” said the man said, who shook Gaughan’s hand. “You give ’em hell, don’t ya? I’m with you.”
Gaughan thanked the man and reminded him to vote against the upsizing, before he took off to distribute more leaflets.
A block away on Cathedral Drive, Gaughan ran into a resident with a different view.
“I know who you are,” said the man, as Gaughan tried to introduce himself. “Stay off my property.”
Gaughan walked away, and told a reporter that those kind of responses tend to be rare.
He described an earlier encounter with a West Seneca man who supported Gaughan, but asked him why he continued to push the issue of downsizing local government.
“I didn’t say this to him,” Gaughan said, “but sometimes in the rare occasion people have asked me that, part of me thinks, ‘The question isn’t why I do it, the question is why aren’t more people doing it?’ ”
Reverting back to five-member boards in West Seneca and Alden would be a blow to Gaughan’s downsizing movement and another blow for him. Gaughan lost in the Democratic primary for the 149th Assembly District in September.
But regardless what happens Tuesday, Gaughan promised to continue his efforts at government reform.
“Given that there’s 45 governments in Erie County,” he said, “much work remains.”