The discussion of public issues, great and small, are welcome on this site. Here are a few (some still under construction) ongoing public issues that will be addressed.
Please feel free to suggest additional issues not listed below.
This is property tax season in the Southtowns.
Take a look at the “County Service Tax” line on your town tax bill. It amounts to almost one-half of the total tax bill. Where does this money go? It is a funding mandate from Albany to pay for the Medicaid costs in Erie County. Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low-income people. In most states, the entire cost of Medicaid is paid from state funds — not local taxes.
The state legislature is looking at proposed laws to return all Medicaid costs to Albany. What can, what should the Southtown governments do to help pass these bills and cut your property taxes by 40% or more?
Fracking. Are you concerned about the environmental and health risks associated with high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) for natural gas? Are you concerned that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) might issue permits for drilling companies to use heavy industrial, HVHF to explore for and produce natural gas in your town?
LAND USE PLANNING
Town Planning Powers. Did you know that your town has the authority to control how land is used in your town, including the banning of heavy industrial land uses, including high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) for natural gas?
DEC has the authority to regulate how companies technically go about drilling. But your town board controls, with land use regulations, whether or not heavy industrial land uses, including HVHF gas drilling, will be allowed in your town.
Master Land Use Plans. Is any heavy industrial activity, including HVHF, compatible and harmonious with the land use policies contained in your town’s officially adopted master or comprehensive plan?
Town Planning Boards. Do Southtown planning boards have the technical expertise to adequately assess the complex potential risks associated with HVHF on the rural lifestyle of the Soutowns?
Checks & Balances
Rule of Law
Southtown governments are, in general, handicapped with a weak executive branch, Can a more effective use of citizen participation in local government affairs strengthen the towns’ performance?
In addition, as a town offers more meaningful ways for citizens to take part, citizens build their civic skills and, in the process, become even more able to contribute to their local, self-rule democracy.
Citizen participation takes many forms, including:
> Constructively contacting and working with local officials when public problems arise;
> Actively working for a party or candidate;
> Volunteering for work on a town committee;
> Getting involved in community issues and projects;
> Forming a group to solve a local problem.
Structure. The separate three branch structure of government (legislature, executive and judiciary) found in Washington and Albany carry-out the traditional American government principle of checks and balances. The idea here is that if one branch of government has a check on the power of the other branches of government abuse of power by government officials will be limited.
However, in New York towns the three-part structure does not exist. Rather, the elected town boards perform both the legislative and the executive functions of government — the same five officials make the local town laws and, at the same time, enforce the provisions contained in the local town laws. If this produces in our Southtowns a lack of executive branch capabilities to address and then implement important public policies and services. How can this gap be filled?