Friday, 22 October 2010 00:00
I want to thank you for your kind words in a recent editorial. I greatly appreciate your comments as to the value and validity of my contributions on various issues of public concern.
You are correct that, long before the current referendum for a four-year term was proposed, I urged the formation of a bipartisan commission of citizens to study our entire city charter, including the length and staggering of terms of office, or even a system of council districts that would elect their own representatives, versus having council members serve “at large.” Indeed, when, more than a year ago, the mayor and council raised, and then withdrew, the idea of extending terms of office, I urged them to hear what the public had to say about our form of government, and how it might be improved upon, rather than presume that they knew best and impose a single choice upon us.
The idea of such a commission, by the way, is nothing new, Mayor Suozzi’s father and cousin having each appointed such bodies to study and recommend changes to the charter when they served as mayor.
If I felt our present form of government to be ideal, I never would have suggested that a change be studied. There is no doubt that a “ward” system would be more representative, but we have not been given that option, or even an opportunity to discuss it. While electing a mayor and six at-large council members every 2 years, as we do now, might be seen by some to potentially and adversely effect continuity in our government, it also provides the citizens to whom our elected officials are ultimately accountable an opportunity to vote them out of office if dissatisfied with their performance. Staggered four-year terms for counsel members, and a two-year term for mayor, as used in the Towns of Oyster Bay and North Hempstead, would enable the voters to replace up to four of the seven every 2 years, allowing for continuity, while also ensuring the accountability that is the cornerstone of our democratic form of government. Unfortunately, we have also not been given that option, or an opportunity to discuss it.
Given a choice only between our current two-year terms of office, or extending the mayor and council member’s terms to four years, as proposed by Mayor Suozzi and the present council, common sense, and considerations of accountability in government, dictate against a change.
To put the reins and purse strings of our city in the hands of the same seven people for 4 consecutive years, without any interim opportunity to oust them from office, and without safeguards against their abuse of such a lengthy term, would effectively disenfranchise the voters of Glen Cove. Without any real limit on the ability of the mayor and council to tax us, or even upon their ability to increase their own salaries, we would effectively be at their mercy, without an opportunity to replace them if those powers were abused.
With our latest proposed budget, Glen Cove real estate taxes will have increased more than 57 percent under the current administration. Can you imagine what those increases might have been if the mayor and council were only accountable to the voters every four years versus two?
It is important to note that, during recent public discussions of this referendum, neither the mayor nor any member of the council has ever said that they were “distracted” by the prospect of an election every 2 years, or that their decisions or ability to govern were affected thereby. Indeed, the mayor clearly said that his decisions were never affected by that fact.
Claims that a two-year term somehow interferes with progress are similarly without merit. The same political party has held a majority on the City Council for the past 16 years. To suggest, therefore, that progress has been hindered by too frequent a change in administrations, or even a fear thereof, is specious, at best.
The current push for a change, therefore, would appear motivated by a simple desire by those who propose it to insulate themselves from the political impact of even larger tax increases or, perhaps, a raise in their own salaries. If this were not the case, they would surely have acted to safeguard against such a possibility.
Our elected officials should and must be accountable to the voters for their actions. The threat presented by reducing such accountability far outweighs the inconvenience of maintaining it.
Paul Meli, Glen Cove
Republican Committee Chair