Term length extension to die on the vine

A proposal to extend the Bethlehem town supervisor's term length met a sudden end Wednesday, Aug. 10, when the Town Board voted 3-2 not to advance the measure.

Supervisor Sam Messina had asked the board to schedule an Aug. 24 public hearing on making the supervisor's office a four-year position instead of two years, but only Councilman Kyle Kotary voted along with him.

Holding a formal public hearing would set the stage for the board to consider a local law making the change. Voters would then ratify or reject the law in the November election in the form of a referendum.

Several board members said two informal public forums on government reform ideas hatched by the town's 20/20 Committee had told them all they needed to know.

"I've already heard from as many people as I'd possibly want to," said Councilman Mark Hennessey, adding that most are not in favor of the change. "I don't think that's going to change between now and the 24th."

But Messina argued that's faulty logic since those forums dealt with other recommendations, including the controversial idea of making three elected department heads appointed officers. Much of the previous debate focused on that issue.

"I don't think there was negativity out there on this subject," Messina said.

Messina is not seeking another term as supervisor.

Councilwoman Joann Dawson, on the other hand, said the government changes recommended by the 20/20 Committee should be considered as a package, not split up.

Councilman Mark Jordan said as a member of the Independence Party he'd like to see term limits attached to such a change, and as such is against the law as written.

Kotary, who is running for supervisor, said he could see valid arguments for both two- and four-year term lengths. He said he would like to see the debate continue.

"Having a public discourse is critically important," he said. "I'd like to know more."

Kotary's opponent in the Democratic Primary for town supervisor, John Clarkson, is a 20/20 Implementation Committee member.

The board could conceivably take up the matter again, but there is a deadline looming for getting the referendum on this year's ballot. Since a public hearing has to be scheduled, noticed and held before a local law can be considered, a member of the board would have to have a change of heart and special meetings would have to be scheduled to meet the deadline.

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