Downsizing the County Legislature
by Michael Madden
The controversy of the election commissioner’s action took away any meaningful discussion of the pros and cons of this proposal. To give a little background, the previous class of the legislature unanimously—including all of the Republicans—voted to downsize to 13 members and a four-year term. The Erie County executive vetoed this proposal. All of the Republicans and a few Democrats—with a legislator absent—failed to override his veto. The next class of legislators, which had been politically manipulated by the county executive, voted to downsize to 11. The Republicans and one Democrat wanted it to be nine.
I would like to make several points.
1. Thirteen would have been a more reasonable number. This would have been a 12 percent decrease in legislators.
2. Reduction to 11 members will be a 25 percent decrease in legislators.
3. The number of legislators has been based on a representation for about 60,000-70,000 persons per legislator.
4. Erie County population has not declined by 25 percent.
5. More importantly, even though the Republicans say it is not political, it would probably swing more districts into Republican control. The smaller size of the legislature will result in less checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.
6. The four-year term, which was recommended strongly by a nonpartisan commission that had been established to study the downsizing of the legislature, would have resulted in the legislator spending more time in the business of the government and less time raising campaign money and running for office.
7. A democracy is about a balance of powers and checks to control all branches of government. The situation we are now facing is a swing of control to the executive branch. Dictatorship?
Michael Madden, Clarence
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