County GOP rests easy with status quo
If you’ve read me for any amount of time you probably know that I am a conservative Republican although as I have aged my libertarian leanings now predominate and I think the best government is the one that is least intrusive in my life yet responsive to the needs of citizens.
After suffering through the often needless restrictions and rules imposed by government at many levels during the late pandemic, I have reached the conclusion that while many candidates seek elective office out of a sense of civic duty some are attracted to it because they have a need to control the lives of others and to leave their “mark” on whatever municipality, county, state, or national government they serve in.
Elected officials should remember that they work for us and not for anyone else. They also must be as frugal with the public purse as they are with their own keeping in mind that the tax burden of New Yorkers is the most onerous one in any state in this nation.
Recently I read two articles in the OBSERVER that piqued my interest. In the first I read that the County Legislature had created the post of “Public Relations Officer” with a salary range of $53,674 to $82,248 based on the qualifications and experience of the person hired, or at least I would hope so. The legislature authorized the position along the usual party line vote which means that the Democratic minority thinks the position is excessive in a time of fiscal uncertainty or that the public relations will be on behalf of the Republican majority.
What exactly would a public relations officer do in county government anyway? To begin I guess that I had always assumed that the county executive and members of the Legislature being politicians almost by definition can do their own “public relations.” For help in determining what a public relations person does I went to the Public Relations Society of America website. That organization defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” So, I guess we could say that public relations specialists manage an organization’s public image and reputation. Even after that I still came to the conclusion that the County Executive and the legislators are already doing public relations so why bother with the extra expense.
Finally, this fact: Chautauqua County has managed without a public relations officer for more than 200 years so why change things now without a pressing need that I don’t see.
Then I read the Legislature voted, once again along party lines, to retain the current 19 legislative districts without a public vote. Democrats had supported reducing the number of districts to 17 reflecting a decrease in population of 7,300 between 2010 and 2020. That sounded like a sensible idea to me since we taxpayers would save $20,000 in legislator compensation which even by 2022 standards is still almost real money.
However, Republicans complained that they would be traveling more covering an enlarged district so in that case if it were up to me I would generously recommend giving each an extra $500 a year. That would still leave the county with an extra $11,500 to play with.
Some Republicans criticized the 17-district plan because it would require four current legislators into primaries with each other. What’s wrong with that? It might even spark some real debates and a discussion of issues important to tax payers along with some new ideas.
The members of our County Legislature work hard, but based on what I read of their activities they do so with few if any new ideas or creativity. Republicans with their huge majority want to protect that majority and “thinking out the box” probably seems dangerous to them. It isn’t and remember what happens to football teams that try to protect a lead, they often lose.
Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org