New York Fire District Election Day for FIRE DISTRICT commissioners is Tuesday, December 11. Surprised? You are not alone. In 2010, only 20 people showed up to vote in the Monroe County Town of Brighton’s fire district election. The year before, only 19 voted in the county’s Town of Henrietta. These elections have a real impact on fire district tax rates, but few people vote in them.
By submitting Freedom of Information Law requests to several Monroe County towns in my own community, I was able to secure voter turnout for a number of fire district elections held in the past 3 years. Average voter turnout across these districts was under one-half of one percent—fewer than 5 of every 1000 registered voters cast ballots. Unlike the election day that just passed, there is no “Get Out the Vote” effort attached to fire district elections—these elections are little noted, unless there is a specific financial issue such as bonding for a large purchase. Read more »
On April 12 the Dyson Foundation/Marist Poll released the first statewide survey of NYS residents’ opinions on local government consolidation (see www.nylocalgov.org). While restructuring is central to Governor Cuomo’s strategy to cut the tax burden, the results suggest that change will be slow without further state action.
- Support for restructuring is hardly universal, despite the bewildering complexity of NYS local government.
- Support varies by function: Highway services are more readily shared than public safety or education—why?
- Experience shows that the status quo is hard to dislodge, even where support is strong. How might state action spur cost-effective re-invention?
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A story surfaced last week (in a rival publication) that brought local development corporations (LDCs) back into public view. CGR studied LDCs in 2008, and we were never able to find a “smoking gun” suggesting that an LDC had been used for evil deeds.
But we still wonder. As we recounted in our report (see http://goo.gl/IOKu), there is nothing inherently wrong with LDCs and they can be used for good. But they are expressly designed to circumnavigate the cumbersome rules we’ve established for public bodies, e.g. open meeting requirements, public bidding, etc. The simple fact that we were never able to compile a list of active LDCs should be enough to light a warning beacon.
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The results of village elections on March 16 cast a ray of hope that perhaps New Yorkers are finally willing to take responsibility for deciding the future of local governments across the state. In five villages, from Port Henry in the east to Randolph in the southwest, voters went to the polls to decide whether or not to dissolve their village and merge with the town. Four villages – Seneca Falls, Perrysburg, East Randolph and Randolph – chose to dissolve, while voters in Port Henry elected to keep their village government. In addition, voters in the Village of Saugerties agreed to dissolve their police department and consolidate with the town police department, and Village of Medina voters chose to abolish their court and merge with the town courts.
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