August 4, 2008

Is Downsizing Good for Democracy?

I have been following this little saga playing out in West Seneca where local gadfly Kevin Gaughan is calling for downsizing that town's council from 5 to 3. I used to think Gaughan had something to offer in the debate about shrinking government to reduce costs but this latest move confirms he is a publicity seeking kook.

After all, there is no real savings in reducing the number of town board members by two. So, then, is the argument that smaller council will be more efficient? And if so, how? By limiting dissension and debate?

Democracy is meant to be sloppy and messy at times. But that's the price you pay to give the average joe a say in the way things happen.

What's even more disturbing is that I'm told this effort is really a battle between warring factions in West Seneca politics. One side that is on the outs thinks it can gain a majority with a smaller council. This is totally undemocratic and really a disgrace to our way of life.

It reminds me of those who call for downsizing the Niagara County Legislature. I'm not saying 19 isn't too many, but this idea we should reduce to 9 or 11 is to take representation away from all of us.

I'm sure a lot of dictators have come to power promising more efficiency by getting rid of those pesky elected boards. Don't be fooled by dupes like Gaughan who are pawns in a sinister political game.


Anonymous said...

The first point is that placing the power of our government in the hands of a few will give the remaining politicians more power. It is easy to say that less is better, but how much less. What is the magic number?

The second point is that Kevin Gaughan is an opportunist. He has taken a general disdain for politicians, put a price tag on it, and sold it. But he refuses to use his new found fame to actually focus on the issues that could save us money. He is a coward and has not suggested cuts in Medicaid to the poor or infirm, he has not suggested cuts in school aid, he has not suggested a revision of the Taylor Law, he has not suggested the retention of hard control boards- no, he wants to get rid of 2 concilmen. It seems like a lot of work to save the taxpayers of West Seneca $3.50 on their tax bill.

Anonymous said...

If downsizing from 9 or 11 from 19 is reducing our representation, then why not add 30 more? Because there are certain numbers that are too many. 19 is too many.

Is downsizing good for democracy? Not just good, necessary. Democracy is about freedom to do with your money what you want, which isn't happening when government is the size it is in NYS.

Anonymous said...

whats wrong hobbes are you afraid you might have to get a real job? And don't give us that bullshit about being a lawyer, check out the yellow pages 1/3 of it are lawyers. Get your tin-cup ready and if i see you rolling in the gutter i will buy you a bottle of wine.

GO KEVIN GO, free us of the Rob Daly's

Frank DeGeorge said...

Last anon, I agree that freedom does include freedome to do what you want with your money. But I don't think paying part-time electeds is the biggest's how these electeds spend our money.

If you cut down on the representation, you will have fewer people cutting deals on how to spend our money and less transparency.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't disagree that 19 is too many, but I don't really know why. We can agree that one is too few because we would essentially be back to being ruled by a monarchy with no real representation. So where is the number we should be at? Do we want our local officials to be able to talk to their constituents? If we do, then how many people should live in any one legislator's district?

There are 200,000 people in this county. If 10 is a good number, then each representative, in theory, would have 20,000 constituents. Is that where we should be?

But the bigger question is what is it we are trying to gain. If the goal is less politicians, then that works. If the goal is to save money, then we should take a look at the savings. The local reps make somewhere in the teens. Multiply that by several and the savings just don't seem to be there.

Anonymous said...

Niagara Falls is going to lose seats any way after the next census, so if the Leg reduces even more, Niagara Falls will be on the outside looking in.

Anonymous said...

So will Lockport and NT.

Anonymous said...

Who cares if niagara falls and lockport loses seats? It may rid us of the melleone kimble, shes useless any way.

Anonymous said...

My biggest concern with Gaughn's latest venture in West Seneca is that he does not define how the downsizing happens.

My understanding is that the downsizing would take place in 2009 simply by eliminating the two board seats that are up that year.

These two board seats happen to be political opponents of the Town Supervisor. Pretty convienent!!

Why in the world would you put forth a plan that basically takes out two politicians. Lets just say that one is in favor of reducing the West Seneca Board. Wouldn't it make the most sense to vacate all of the board seats and hold a run off election between the four board members and anyone else who wants to throw their respective hat in the ring? My understanding is that is not the plan in West Seneca. So the two board members whose terms are up in 2009 would lose their jobs, while the two who ran last year wouldn't be up until 2011 (along with the town supervisor). So, how is this democratic. Voters in West Seneca will not be able to vote for their representatives until 2011.

The Town Supervisor in West Seneca is embrassing this idea to get rid of political decenters on the board. It's an attempted power grab, and nothing else.

not_over_it said...

WAit, are you trying to tell me that it's not all a sinister political game?

I don't believe you.

Anonymous said...

Think long and hard - make good on what you owe...

Anonymous said...

Again I don't like downsizing, I like rightsizing. If downsizing is the answer have that number be one. If it's rightsizing it's not one but it's also not 19 for the NC Leg. Most cases minimum number should be 5 and adjust from there.

George Lodick said...

A triumvirate is not the answer for West Seneca or just about anywhere else. The cost of 2 council members in a town government is relatively small. This so-called savings is totally outweighed by the the reduction in representation and the concentration of power into a few hands. Five members is a reasonable number in a politically diverse, but balanced community.

That is not to say that some governments shouldn't rightsize their legislative bodies. However, we need simpler governance (fewer overlapping services, less unfunded mandates, perhaps fewer layers, etc) not less representation.