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LETTER: Reject the referendum, retain rights

Editor, The Spotlight:

Supervisor Clarkson’s referendum to abolish the elective office of superintendent of highways and fill it by appointment is contrary to the public good. His continuing campaign to take away our right to vote for superintendent of highways, town clerk and receiver of taxes is a blatant power grab that must be defeated.

Abdication of our right to elect one of the highest paid town officials and cede control of the Highway Department budgeted funds to the supervisor is foolish. Voting rights are being attacked across the country. Bethlehem citizens must decide that consolidation of power in the supervisor is unacceptable. Balance of power with elected officials accountable to the people must continue.

There’s a reason only 59 of 932 towns statewide allow appointment of the highway superintendent: it’s a bad idea. Appointed officials are all-too-often associated with nepotism, cronyism, no-show jobs and avoidable rancorous public debate.

The supervisor claims it’s a simple process to reverse abdication of voting rights. Truthfully, another local law to reverse must be proposed, with Town Board approval, and another election conducted. It’s unlikely a supervisor who ends your right to vote would offer it back ever.

There’s been discussion about making the highway superintendent a civil service position. Potential abuse exists in that requirements to take the exam and the contents can be designed and manipulated so that only the supervisor’s preferred candidate would be eligible. We could never remove that person, if necessary, as we can through elections.

The supervisor suggests a “professional” should be highway superintendent. It insinuates department employees with many years of experience who have completed required college courses are not qualified. No guarantee exists his appointee would have “professional qualifications.” It’s senseless for the supervisor’s appointed commissioner of public works, who oversees the Water/Sewer Department, to assume the responsibilities of highway superintendent. Knowledgeable employees in the Highway Department have the expertise to do the job.

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