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Only in Chautauqua County

August 5, 2010 - John D'Agostino

Let’s talk downsizing — or the lack of it.

Legislators who oppose downsizing represent the "rural sections"  of our county. Those who are for it represent the cities — Dunkirk-Fredonia, which has a combined population of 24,000 and Jamestown, which has a city population of 29,000 people.

For some reason, rural legislators believe if the County Legislature is downsized, all the representation will go to the cities. Right now, that is certainly not the case.

In fact, you could make an argument that the Legislature is run by a minority — the rural lawmakers. Breaking down the 25, 13 are from rural areas such as Clymer, Ellery, Westfield, Frewsburg, Silver Creek. Only 12 represent the city areas.

So technically, in Chautauqua County, the smaller areas — combined — outnumber the city areas. In a democracy, this hardly ever happens. It’s usually a majority vote.

For instance, when we elect a president Nebraska does not have the same number of Electoral College votes as Texas and Vermont does not have the same as New York. It makes sense, just like Congress — more population, more representation.

It makes sense as well when we vote for governor. If New York City likes a candidate like Andrew Cuomo, they have the majority of state voters. Thus, the largest city in the nation will be key in voting in our next governor. Chautauqua County may lean to Rick Lazio, but we can't match downstate’s 12 million voters.

But our democracy in Chautauqua County never was set up to make sense. It was set up to make everyone happy. That's why there's a county overseeing 27 towns, 15 villages and two cities.

And, in the end, the rural legislators can lead the charge by continuing to think small, spend county cash and not look at the big picture.

As we noted last week on our editorial page, our county has lost 6,000 residents since 2000. If we keep spending and allowing our governments to grow, population will continue to decline and lawmakers will get their wish: we will all be able to say we have rural representation in this county.

 
 

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