Amherst Councilman Mark Manna’s seemingly new-found passion to “let the people decide” has resulted in a couple of wrong-headed turns on the subject of downsizing and, more recently, upsizing the Town Board.
The board downsized from seven members to six in 2011 – five council members and the supervisor – and is scheduled to go to five members in January 2014. The “people” spoke in 2010 when they overwhelmingly voted to downsize to five board members.
Manna, a longtime staunch opponent of downsizing, the other day decided going down to a three-member board was “inevitable” and pledged to put forth a resolution saying as much. But then he changed his mind on the number, deciding that perhaps keeping the board at six is better.
The short response is, no, it’s not. But neither is whittling the number from six to just three members in a city-size town. Six doesn’t work well because it sets up the possibility of tie votes. That isn’t happening now as the board enjoys an era of good feeling, but that may not last into the future. The Town Board should drop to five members, as called for in the referendum.
Talk of further change is premature. But this is Amherst, and sometimes quirky situations have to play themselves out. Therefore, when Manna’s resolution was discussed at Monday’s work session, Council Member Guy Marlette pointed out a little detail. That is, if the board remains at six members, a citizens petition cannot be submitted to further reduce the board to three members. So, the number six suddenly started looking good.
Marlette suggested they ask residents if they are satisfied with a six-member Town Board. The proposal for a referendum, with Manna’s support, sailed through with one right-sized dissent. Council Member Richard “Jay” Anderson chided Manna’s frenetic changing of positions on the issue of downsizing.
Over the years, Manna voted against five downsizing proposals, calling downsizing “the democratic process to march ourselves to a dictatorship.” The other day, he said three board members was not only “inevitable,” it was advisable. And now six will do just fine, thank you.
Again, the voters have already voiced their opinion on downsizing. The Town Board hasn’t even gotten to five members yet. That should be given a chance to work before further tinkering is attempted.