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Second Downsizing Forum Scheduled
April 6, 2011 - Dunkirk OBSERVER
Posted by Nicholas L. Dean
The downsizing discussion is headed to Jamestown.
County Independence Party Chairman Thom Shagla announced today that a second forum will be held Saturday morning at Friendly's Restaurant in Brooklyn Square.
The purpose of the forum is to discuss several of the issues currently facing county voters, not just downsizing of the Chautauqua County Legislature.
The forum is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. this Saturday. A similar such forum was held late last month in the city of Dunkirk.
"Our first meeting was a great step in the right direction of seeing how our people, and others feel about what is happening on the county level," Shagla said Wednesday. "The session lasted for two-and-a-half hours and many questions were asked and many suggestions were made.
"We had originally invited any registered members of the Independence Party and those that are registered to vote, but not affiliated with any party," Shagla continued. "There was no set agenda, but main topics of discussion were the reduction in the size of the legislature, staggered terms for legislators, term limits and the reapportionment issue."
The Independence Party has long pressed for a reduction in the size the County Legislature, just as party members successfully sought to have the health insurance benefit taken away from the part-time legislators.
"There were legislators that were receiving this benefit costing as much as $13,615 for each of them for a job that paid $9,000," Shagla said. "There was something wrong with that picture and fortunately when the public found out and pressure was put on them, they eliminated it. We refused to endorse any candidate that supported keeping this 'special benefit' which was available to only them as a part-time employee."
Shagla continued on to call the current reapportionment work being done by legislators a "circus."
"The legislature could have decided long ago as to the size of the population that each of them could represent, without waiting for the census figures," Shagla said. "The Republican leadership stated well over a year ago that they thought 19 legislators was the number they could support. The Democrats sought to have a reduction to 15. If, and I use the word cautiously, if they would have compromised at 17, they would represent approximately 7,900 people. Each Fredonia Village Trustee and the mayor of Fredonia represent almost 50 percent more people. The same goes for the town of Pomfret supervisor and council people."
It's Shagla's belief that county residents have enough people representing them in government positions.
"All we need is for all those people that are already there to communicate better with each other and everyone will know what the pressing problems of our communities are," he said. "People say they will have less representation. They have one legislator now and will have one after any reduction. If you aren't happy with the level of service by your legislator, get one that will do a better job.
"Legislators don't have to go to every board or village meeting," Shagla continued. "All they have to do is put a news release in the paper saying that they will be available at a time and place in their district for constituents to come and talk to them. Release their phone numbers and email addresses. There is no reason that can be given to say you can't reach those that you want to contact."
Saturday's forum will address all such topics and more, according to Shagla. Additionally, voter registration forms will be available for anyone that is not registered to vote, regardless of what party they wish to enroll in.
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Thom Shagla gesticulates at the downsizing discussion held in Dunkirk late last month.