Letter to the Editor: Vote “No” to referendum on representation by ward
October 28, 2011
by Robin Stout
In times like these, why would we increase the size, cost, complexity, and potential divisiveness of government? And yet, that is exactly what the referendum facing New Castle voters on Election Day would do. I urge New Castle citizens to vote “NO.”
The referendum would impose three fundamental changes at once on our local government: (1) dividing our small Town into six separate wards; (2) increasing the number of Town Board members from five to seven; and (3) shortening the term of Board members from four to two years. Each of these changes, standing alone, is ill-advised. Worse, the referendum binds all three together, inseparably, in one “up-or-down” vote. A vote for the referendum is a vote for all three changes, and I believe such a vote would be harmful to good local government.Dividing our Town into wards:
We live in a Town of less than 18,000 people. The great majority of issues before the Town Board are Town-wide issues, and currently all citizens vote for all at-large Town Board members who are responsible to the Town as a whole. To the contrary, in a ward system, citizens would vote only for a Supervisor and one ward member. While a ward member might focus more intently on his or her particular neighborhood concerns, that may or may not be conducive to forming a majority consensus with other ward members, who would be carrying their own differing concerns. Wards increase both the possibility of isolating neighborhoods and Board members from one another and the likelihood that trading favors becomes required for moving forward, defeating transparency and accountability. And, by the way, wards lines would be drawn not by New Castle but by the Westchester County Board of Elections, in a way unknowable until after ward approval. There is no reason to think that lines gerrymandered for Westchester County political purposes will necessarily be optimal for addressing local New Castle concerns.Increasing the number of Board members:
Your Town Board consists of a Supervisor and four members. The referendum would change that to a Supervisor and six members. Granted that “two heads are better than one”, but are seven heads better than five? The Town Board already draws upon and learns from a pool of talented staff and volunteers considerably larger than any manageable Town Board could ever be. Increased Board numbers inevitably will cost more budget dollars, and there is no reason to think that having more Board members would decrease the time that any dedicated Board member will spend studying and discussing Town issues on a weekly basis. I also worry that finding enough good candidates willing to make the necessary commitments will only become that much more difficult. There is no reason to unnecessarily diffuse responsibility in a small Town such as ours.Shortening Board member terms:
Currently the Town Supervisor runs every two years and the remaining four members run two-at-a-time in staggered four year terms. The referendum would require all candidates to run every two years. This is problematic because there is a learning curve to understanding the issues and the rhythm of the Town and the Board. The potential loss of experience in revolving two-year terms would greatly decrease Board productivity, creativity, and cohesiveness, to the fiscal detriment of taxpayers. Worse, without any staggered terms, continuity could be wholly lost, again to the great disadvantage of the citizens. Frequent elections may not discourage “career politicians”, but may deter good “citizen participants” from stepping forward.
Each of these three changes is unnecessary, and not conducive to good government. There is no reason to increase the size, cost, complexity, and potential divisiveness of our local government. Please vote “NO” on the referendum on Election Day, November 8.
I offer this opinion personally, not as a New Castle Town Board member.
The two-part proposal will appear in the November 8 referendum as a single statement to which voters will answer Yes or No. It will read as follows:
“That a) the number of at-large seats on the Town Board be increased from four to six;
b) that these six members of the Board be elected as representatives of each of six wards respectively of the Town of New Castle, to be defined in accordance with the laws of New York State, Town Law, Article 6, Section 85.”
From NCNOW.org’s archives (newest to oldest):
Letter to the Editor: Why I’m voting YES for the ward redistricting resolution, October 28, 2011, by The Rev. Dr. Joel Clark Mason
Letter to the Editor: Vote “No” to referendum on representation by ward, October 28, 2011, by Robin Stout
Letter to the Editor: Nov. 8 Referendum—Vote YES for Democracy, October 28, 2011, by Penny Vane
Letter to the Editor: Ward system is not in the town’s best interest, October 24, 2011, by Dr. William H. Flank
Letter to the Editor: The wheeling and dealing of Yonkers ward system? Not for New Castle, October 24, 2011, by Betty Weitz
Candidates’ thoughts on the proposed referendum on representation by ward, NCNOW, October 21, 2011
Letter to the Editor: I will vote No on the proposed referendum to institute a ward system, October 21, 2011, by Rob Greenstein
See also Sewers issue surfaces in League forum on ward system referendum, 10/21/11.
Manny Areces’ website with info on the proposed referendum: http://ncreferendum.com/
To see Gerrard’s entire statement click HERE
For background, see:
Letter to the Editor: League urges a “No” vote on ward system referendum, NCNOW.org, September 23, 2011, by Sheila Bernson and Jennifer Mebes Flagg
League of Women voters opposes ward referendum, but will hold forum on Oct. 17, NCNOW.org, September 23, 2011, by Christine Yeres
Letter to the Editor: The proposed referendum to change the structure of town board elections, NCNOW.org, September 19, 2011, by Rob Greenstein
Non-partisan group proposes expansion of town board from 4 at-large members to 6, NCNOW.org, July 1, 2011, by Susie Pender