Association of Supervisors approves resolution
Story by Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY February 15, 2013 Last week, the Sullivan County Association of Supervisors called for replacing the County Legislature with the governing body it replaced 17 years ago: the Board of Supervisors.
But will that extend beyond a symbolic gesture?
“All we are right now, I think, is at the grumbling stage,” Highland Supervisor Andy Boyar told the Democrat this week.
He’s one of the 11 town supervisors (out of 15) who approved the resolution, which supports the concept of returning to the Board of Supervisors if countywide voters approve.
For all of Sullivan County’s history prior to 1996, the county was ruled by that board, consisting of the supervisors of every township.
It was replaced at the end of the 20th century with the current Legislature, featuring nine legislators who represent districts defined not by town borders but by equal constituent populations.
The idea was to more fairly represent the county’s residents, but whether that goal has been or ever will be reached is a matter of ongoing debate.
“We simply don’t see our legislators in this form of government,” said Boyar, comparing them to the supervisors, who he feels are far more visible in their communities.
“These people are trying very hard,” he added, “but they might be better able to do their jobs if they were supervisors instead of legislators.”
Boyar, in fact, was the very last chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 1995, and he’s not interested in serving on a reconstituted board (nor is the only other current supervisor who sat on that board: Thompson’s Tony Cellini, who retires at the end of this year).
“I’m definitely not getting at the head of this parade,” he said.
But with finances in a major slump and squabbling continuing to plague the Legislature, he thinks now may be the time to go back in time.
“I’m absolutely convinced the prior form of government better served Sullivan County,” he remarked. “... The proof now is in the pudding. ... I’m 100 percent positive we would not be broke [with a Board of Supervisors]. There’s not a town in this county that’s broke.”
Yet will that spur anyone to mount a petition drive to force the issue on the ballot, or the even longer shot of convincing legislators to agree to their own abolition?
“I don’t know if this is a wider-spread feeling,” Boyar acknowledged.
He hears complaints on the street but recognizes that simple unhappiness with the Legislature will not result in a switch to the Board of Supervisors (or another oft-bandied idea: adding an elected county executive).
“It’s meaningless if there’s not a serious initiative to reconsider,” he affirmed.
So Boyar is advocating for public forums to assess voters’ interest though that, too, awaits further discussion by his colleagues.
Two other resolutions
Also unanimously supported by the 11 supervisors at last week’s meeting (with Fallsburg, Neversink, Liberty and Forestburgh absent):
• A resolution chiding New York State for infringing on the rights of residents to bear arms via the gun control legislation passed in the wake of the Newtown, CT, shootings.
• A resolution protesting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to reduce traffic ticket plea-bargaining, which could harm towns’ revenue streams and place additional burdens on municipal attorneys and police.