The downsizing of the Amherst Town Board from six members to five has been given what appears to be a final green light after years of contentious debate.
The board voted Monday not to mount a legal challenge to a judge’s ruling that cleared the way for the downsizing to go ahead. “We shouldn’t be wasting our time, energy and resources on this appeal,” said Council Member Mark A. Manna, who proposed the legislation. “It’s just silly.”
The appeal would have challenged State Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister’s recent ruling that canceled a special election to keep the board at six members.
Surprisingly, Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, who was in favor of the special election, said he agreed with Manna that the town should drop the appeal. “It’s not worth the money, and it’s not worth the time,” Weinstein said. “I can live with the decision.”
Weinstein, who is being challenged by Manna for the supervisor’s post in November, said the scheduled downsizing of the board would take place as planned.
Amherst residents voted overwhelmingly in 2010 to downsize the board from seven members to five, but it was not carried out all at once.
One board seat was trimmed when Weinstein was elected supervisor, and the second was scheduled to be eliminated at the end of this year.
But Weinstein and the Republican majority on the board this year argued that the sixth seat should stay because the board worked well together.
They called a special election asking residents to vote on the matter before town Democrats successfully challenged the notion in the courts.
Town leaders had said they would appeal Bannister’s ruling and filed a notice of appeal but reversed course Monday night.
Deputy Supervisor Guy R. Marlette was the lone board member to maintain his support of the appeal.
“There is absolutely no harm in appealing and getting a higher court’s ruling,” Marlette said. “This was a politically motivated challenge.”
The decision means one board seat will be eliminated at year’s end. Two board seats – both held by Republicans – are up for election this year, and neither incumbent is expected to run.
Nearly every sitting board member has changed his or her position on this issue since it was brought up in 2010.
Weinstein ran for office on a platform that included board downsizing, and Manna was once stridently against it.
“I’m no saint on this downsizing thing, but at some point my opinion on this becomes irrelevant,” Manna said. “We have to listen to the people.”