Governor Paterson wants to remove voter's rights

Please see below the letters to NYS Assemblymen and NY State Senate Local Government Committee Members regarding the proposed removal of the election process for Town Clerks and Highway Superintendents. Don't let Governor Paterson remove YOUR right to vote for your town officials! Write to him today: Governor David A. Paterson, State Capitol, Albany NY 12224

Town Clerk Letter:
The office of Town Clerk is the hub of local government and provides necessary and transparent services to the residents of our districts. As Town Clerk of the Town of Lindley, I strongly oppose, Part NN, Sections 26 through 28, of S.56/A.156 (Public Protection and General Government Article VII Budget bill) and ask that these sections be stricken from the bill.

Town Clerks are fundamental to the operation of local government and perform indispensable duties including the management, storage and organization of all town records, including fiscal records; taking accurate and reliable minutes of the Town Board; collection of licensing fees and taxes; issuance and recordation of all marriage and death certificates; and significant tasks central to state and local elections. If the Town Clerk is not independently elected by the voters, he or she is then subject to the will and oversight of the Town Board. This would not provide the necessary checks and balances set forth in law.

As currently proposed, Sections 26 through 28 will permit a Town Board to convert the office of Town Clerk from an elected to appointed position, subject to a permissive referendum. The proposed language will have a devastating impact on local governments and result in the direct disenfranchisement of the voters of New York State.

First, the proposed language directly conflicts and overrides Municipal Home Rule Law §10 which already provides a mechanism for a town to adopt a local law changing the office of Town Clerk from an elected to appointed position. Key to this legal requirement, is that the Municipal Home Rule law mandates that the proposed local law be subject to a public hearing before adoption. This gives the voters a chance to be heard by the Town Board and the public in general.

S.56/A.156 would substitute this fair and important opportunity to voice opinions and comments for the onerous, costly and inefficient requirements of a permissive referendum. The permissive referendum process places an unreasonable burden on the electorate and potentially gives the Town Board the ability to convert the office of Town Clerk from an elected to appointed one without any public comment. This course of action by a Town Board would remove the right of the residents to directly choose their elected officials – a right which New Yorkers have overwhelmingly declared to be of the highest priority (please see the recent Siena Poll conducted January 27-29, 2009.

Additionally, Sections 26 through 28 of S.56/A.156 will create ZERO fiscal savings for the State. The Town Board sets the salary of either an elected or appointed clerk, and a permissive referendum increases the administrative costs to the town, including the potential costs of holding a special election or vote. This bill will actually increase the expenses incurred by local governments.

For the reasons stated above, I strongly oppose any language which transforms the elected office of Town Clerk from one directly accountable to the voters, to an appointed position reporting only to the Town Board. Sections 26 through 28, Part NN, of the proposed Public Protection and General Government Article VII bill should be removed.

I look forward to speaking with you and discussing these matters in greater detail.

Town Highway Superintendent Letter:

New York’s 900 Elected Town Highway Superintendents Call on the Legislature to Protect Local Voters’ Rights:

The New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH) is the State’s largest transportation association representing Highway Superintendents in 932 towns, most of whom are elected officials responsible for maintaining local highways. This massive system consists of 60,000 centerline miles and over 4,000 highway bridges. NYSAOTSOH members maintain over 65% of the roads in New York.

In the best interest of our local roads and highways, we oppose the language in Part NN Sections 26 through 28 of the Executive Budget S.56-a/A.156-a that would allow for a change in Town Law to allow a town board to convert the position town highway superintendent from elected to appointed, subject to permissive referendum.

The Governor’s proposed budget contains recommendations from the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness which would give towns the ability to utilize permissive referendums to change their town highway superintendents elected offices to appointed positions. A permissive referendum is a vote by the town board which passes unless opposed by a petition submitted to the town clerk or a resolution adopted by the town board within 30 days. If opposed, then the referendum goes to a special election. Under current law, a town board can convert these positions from appointed to elected, subject to permissive referendum, but a mandatory referendum to the voters is required to convert from elected to appointed. It also amends the town law to allow a town board to consolidate the positions of public works commissioner and town highway superintendent, subject to permissive referendum.

According to the State Comptroller the single largest expense in New York State’s towns is maintaining their local roads. By having an elected highway superintendent, the voters decide directly the person who will administer the largest share of their tax dollars.

Please vote against this proposition that takes the voter’s rights away from them!