Get A Little Closer

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Does the president of the Monroe County Legislature really believe that a government closest to the people means a government with a large number of representatives? Does he really believe that a raft of legislators equals a legislature in touch with its constituents?

You may have heard how some Democrats running for the county legislature want to reduce the size of the 29-member board. Some have called for 21 members, some want to go down to 15.

It’s just a political stunt, said Wayne Zyra, the county legislative president and a member of the Republican majority. He told Jim Goodman of the Democrat and Chronicle that people want small districts because "the people I represent want to be close to their representatives."

But wait a minute: Wouldn’t a smaller legislature be a streamlined legislature? And aren’t Republicans into reducing government, making it more efficient?

In fact, don’t Republicans like to say that they want to run government like a business? Didn’t George W. Bush call himself the first C.E.O president when he was first seeking that office? Didn’t New York City Republicans embrace Mike Bloomberg, a business tycoon? Just last week, didn’t State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, when backing the possible Republican candidacy of Tom Golisano for governor, say about Tommy G. that "he’s a real chief executive and what we need is a real chief executive"?

Well what has been business being doing in recent years. Merging. Downsizing. Scaling back and getting leaner to compete.

Should Mr. Zyra ask people in his district if they would like a more efficient county legislature? Maybe an even more important question for him to ask the people in Clarkson, Hamlin and Sweden, (not just the ones on the preferred voting lists, but all homeowners) is: Do you know just who is your county legislator? Would they point to him if hadn’t prompted them in advance? Would a majority say they know? Doubtful.

You see, the Monroe County Legislature has become a tepid tool for public expression in county government. It wasn’t always this way. Wouldn’t a shake up of the staid institution make it more relevant?

Now, I’m not sure if reducing the number of county legislators is the solution, as Democrats suggest. I will say that the term limits won’t be the answer. That legislation, which is taking affect this election year, will probably make it only weaker. How will brand new members argue against the entrenched staffers working full-time in the Maggie Brooks administration?

But the point is that doing something to try and shake up the lawmaking arm of the government would be for the good. Doing nothing only deprives people of a way to move the levers of the county government machinery.

People may become closer to their representatives if they were working on more substantive policy. Right now there is scant little connection between that branch of county government and the people they serve.

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