Studies, essays and newspaper editorials urging consolidation of local layers of government and school districts stretch back decades.
They always say essentially the same thing: With 27 towns, 15 villages, two cities and 18 school districts, it is no wonder taxes here are too high. We need to change.
Just last week, Todd Tranum of the Chamber of Commerce was at it again.
"Study after study has shown that reducing layers of government creates efficiencies and paves the way to reduce taxes," he wrote in an essay urging the consolidation of local government.
Yes, he is right. We agree with him.
But remember the proposal to merge the village of Sherman and town of Sherman years ago? Remember the more recent Lakewood-Busti proposal?
Both made eminent sense and both were shot down by voters.
Remember the several school districts in Chautauqua County that have gotten far enough along in consolidation talks to put the question on the ballot for voters to decide?
Again, every proposal was voted down with a resounding No.
Except one - the consolidation of the Mayville and the Chautauqua central school districts.
It seems to us we would do well to examine how it was that voters ultimately approved the merger to create the Chautauqua Lake Central School district. What happened then to persuade people to support merger and can we duplicate it today?
Recall that the debate in the two communities was rancorous and emotional - exactly the same tenor of the debates in other districts that have talked about merger.
There was one big difference, however. Active and involved support for the proposal arose from within the populace of both communities.
"We must recognize that we are failing ourselves by allowing some of our elected officials to fail us. If we want change we have to demand it," Tranum wrote.
If we want change, we have to go out and make it happen. As we have seen over the past few decades, standing on the sidelines demanding someone else do the work gets us no where.
"If we want change we have to be willing to let it happen in our 'back yard,'" Tranum wrote.
Again, no. If we want change, we have to be willing to make it happen in our own back yard.
The countywide Chamber of Commerce has a membership made up of business people across a broad spectrum of the county. Who better to provide leadership from within their own communities in order to persuade voters to support the change?
The Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association stand ready now to assist in any way possible to help end the unnecessary layers of taxation that impede the growth of business in our communities, Tranum declared.
Then the chamber should learn the lesson from the Chautauqua Lake Central School and recruit from within its own ranks the citizens leaders, the change agents, who are needed to do just that.