When you go to the voting booth on November 8th this year you will have an opportunity to send a strong message to the Chautauqua County Legislature. A proposition on the ballot will ask you to approve a local law amending the County Charter, which will require that future redistricting plans reduce the size of the County Legislature to no greater than 19 members. In the past 40 years our county’s population has declined by 12,400, from its peak of 147,305 in 1970 to 134,905 in the 2010 US Census. Yet the County Legislature remains a 25-member body.
Over the same period of time dramatic changes have occurred in our ability to easily communicate with one another. Forty years ago our elected officials were not in touch with their constituents via email and Facebook, as many are now.
Not too many years ago the County Legislature held regular meetings twice a month. Now they meet monthly, conducting all business in about half the time it once took.
At least three separate, bi-partisan commissions convened in the past fifteen years have recommended reducing the size of the County Legislature.
Despite all of these sound arguments for legislative reduction, the Legislature itself has failed to act of its own accord. Many of those whom we have elected to positions of leadership have not demonstrated their willingness to tackle this issue, with some notable exceptions. We congratulate the lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, who have tried, unsuccessfully, to get the reduction approved.
By making a series of difficult decisions in the past decade, a countywide Chamber was formed encompassing all of the smaller community Chambers of Commerce. In the past three years the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier consolidated services into the County Chamber of Commerce as well. As an organization, we have demonstrated leadership in order to increase efficiencies, save money, and improve the business climate in Chautauqua County.
There will be minimal financial savings for the county by downsizing the legislature. But as the business community continues to cry out for tax relief and the reduction of layers of taxing entities, we are seeking leadership. The County Legislature must be reduced in order to set a precedent for additional governmental agencies.
The next move is up to you, the voter. We can no longer afford business as usual, and we strongly encourage a “yes” vote on this proposition.
Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO