Lack of communication delayed term vote
In October, the Dunkirk OBSERVER editorialized about the referendum to change the terms of the Dunkirk City Council that was, according to the editorial, to be voted on at the November 2018 General Election. The problem was that neither the staffers in the County Board of Elections office who monitor town, city and village referendums and election vacancies and the Dunkirk City Clerk never communicated on the referendum. It was then too late in October to get the referendum on the 2018 November ballot for city voters.
I contacted Dunkirk city officials and set up a meeting with the mayor and the two sponsors of the four-year term resolution.
I apologized the Board of Elections did not do a better job on our end helping the City of Dunkirk. The mayor was insisting on transparency and was upset with his own officials.
I explained that being too late for the November 2018 ballot, the options were to have a Special Election to vote on the proposition at a cost of about $6,000 to City Taxpayers or to run the election in 2019. Further, I questioned the sponsors on why they would have a referendum on the ballot during a non-city cycle election. They said their intention was to have the city voters decide on the length of term and they wanted whatever the city voters decided on to go in effect for the term starting Jan. 1, 2020 (Voting at the 2019 city election cycle). Neither wanted to cost the city taxpayers extra money to run a special Election, so they said they were ok with the referendum being on the ballot during the 2019 General Election.
I conferred with local and state election officials on the matter. I conferred with the publisher of the OBSERVER. He said he would take care of getting the word out to the public that they would be waiting until 2019 to vote on the matter.
In the end, the council members involved did not have an illegal meeting. They moved forward with the idea of the 2019 referendum. Some are making a big deal about a small issue. There is no harm being done to the city voters and there is no foul being committed by putting off this referendum to its rightful timing for the city elections that are always held in an odd year.
Final point is that the suggestion in the editorial that there were nefarious plans to remove this referendum from the eyes of the 2018 voters fails to recognize that every Democratic candidate with Gov. Cuomo leading the ticket defeated their opponents in the city, as expected, except for the state Assembly candidate.
This whole thing seems a little bit like a tempest in a teapot.
Norman P. Green is commissioner of the Chautauqua County Board of Elections.