LETTER: Public participation and the April 30 voter referendum

Editor, The Spotlight:

On April 30, Bethlehem voters will have a public referendum on whether or not to eliminate the elected position of highway superintendent, in order to consolidate the highway and public works operations. This is about more than eliminating one elected position. This vote is a critical step in streamlining town government operations so as to modernize and achieve efficiencies of scale and operational flexibility.

Efficiency experts in government and the private sector agree that consolidating management structures and streamlining lines of authority improve efficiency. For Bethlehem, this means maintaining or enhancing services while reducing costs. The League of Women Voters and several citizen advisory groups (2006 Interdepartmental Management Advisory Committee, 20/20 Commission Reports from 2009 and 2011 and the Budget Advisory Team in 2012) have studied this issue and their reports support the course of action we have put in motion. We are not just talking about government efficiency; we are doing something about it!

In his recent letter to the editor, Richard Mendick tried to make an issue out of the Town Board’s action on a resolution on March 13 that implemented procedures for the April 30 referendum. His complaint was that we took this action despite having eight or nine citizens speaking against the resolution during the public comment period. Mr. Mendick then went on to say that participation in government has become a hollow catchphrase because the resolution was passed, “with overwhelming citizen opposition.” What he failed to say is that the board was following through on the commitment made at the prior meeting, where a local law and a resolution calling for a vote on April 30 were passed unanimously. That meeting included a properly noticed and scheduled public hearing on the issue, at which there was overwhelming public support both for having the referendum as well as for having it on April 30.

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