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May 9, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)

Former First Ward Councilman Vince Joy (Junior) recently had a letter in the Post-Journal that cut to the core of one of the problems that plagues Jamestown. He posits that Jamestown has for years been misidentified as a “big city” when in truth we are a “big town”—a distinction with a difference. Subsequently, all of our planning and programs have been patterned toward a “one size fits all” cosmopolitan city and with predictable outcomes.

Such “misidentification” is a huge problem; Buffalo being an example. I have met native New Yorkers who are surprised to learn that Buffalo is New York’s second largest city—only New York City is larger. I once won a small wager from a native Jamestowner who insisted that both Rochester and Syracuse was larger than Buffalo. I believe one reason people have that misconception is because Buffalo has never acted like New York’s second city.

Buffalo’s political leaders have all too often viewed the city as a private fiefdom and practiced a political cronyism, which was often petty and mean spirited. Such was the case as manifested by the pettiness and arrogance of a former Public Works Director who dumped truck loads of salt in the Delaware Park Lake to prevent it from freezing over to accommodate ice skating. He was angry because Buffalo’s news organizations reported incompetence in his department.

Jamestown is not Buffalo and our experience is opposite that of Buffalo—we act like we are “big city” with even bigger ideas. Jamestown—city government needs to downsize to better accommodate a “big town” government rather than a “big city” attitude that seems to prevail.

We see that “big city” attitude manifested in a downtown-parking plan that’s void of simplicity and notorious for its complexity. We see that regarding our local police department, one of the finest forces in the state, that needs to be incorporated into the County Sheriff’s department instead of the issue being studied for months or years into the future.

Local leaders have given the distinct impression that it is nearly impossible to abolish a police department or incorporate it into another agency such as the Sheriff’s Department. The public has been led to believe a transfers require months, even years of negotiations before such a transfer can take place. Granting that there may be hoops to jump through abolishing or consolidating a police department is reasonably straightforward.

In the fist instance, our police department isn’t going to abolished; we are transferring the function to another agency—the County Sheriff’s Department. In New York State any police department may be dissolved or abolished and its functions assumed by another police agency. The law says that such actions may occur for reasons of economy, curtailment of activities, consolidation or abolition of functions. The law is clear that it applies to police agencies of a county, city, town or village. A different set of rules applies to a city of a million or more people.

Jamestown could immediately agree by resolution of the City Council, or by referendum of the voters, to abolish our police department and consolidate it with the County Sheriff’s Department. Section 83 of the NYS Civil Service Law provides for the creation of a police advisory board which provides for an equitable method of transferring members of the existing police departments. Governor Eliot Spitzer signed Executive Order No. 11 that offers assistance to local governments and helps provide assurance to local employees that their Civil Service rights will be protected.

Although it might take time to transfer police department employees we can begin the process immediately by resolutions at the city and county level. The taxpaying public can watch as local police unions fight the transfers out with Civil Service and the police advisory board secure in the knowledge that Jamestown taxpayers will not be paying for two police departments.


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