Editor, The Spotlight:
The Bethlehem Town Board has put the final pieces in place for the April 30 special election referendum to abolish the election of the town’s superintendent of highways. Gregg Sagendorph is retiring after over 40 years of exemplary service to our town, the last 22 as its elected Superintendent.
This presents an opportunity to evaluate whether to combine the Highway Department and the Department of Public Works. Against that, should be weighed the public’s loss of its right to vote for one of its most accountable public officials.
Supervisor John Clarkson and the Town Board, save Councilwoman Joann Dawson, have devised a scheme that prevents an open and fair election and instead stacks the deck to get their desired outcome. They could have opted to wait to vote on this in the fall elections, with a phase out of the position after two years. Instead, they fast-tracked the election for now, off the normal cycle, and when people are away.
Instead of having the election run as usual by the Albany County Board of Elections, Supervisor Clarkson and the Town Board put in place an arcane mechanism which limits voting to one polling place (Town Hall) instead of the usual 21 places, will create a huge bottleneck that will turn voters away when seeing long lines, uses paper ballots instead of voting machines, creates two new boards to oversee the registration and voting of new voters and those seeking absentee ballots. Does this sound like an open and fair process or one that suppresses voter participation?
At several public forums, the voters have railed against not only losing their right to vote but also the method by which this election is being handled. A recent poll by The Spotlight showed that 72 percent of our citizens favor elected over appointed town positions.