On Nov. 8 we will go to the polls for a vote on the future size of the Chautauqua County Legislature. I am glad that the people of this county will have a personal say about this idea! Though I believe we already had a fair say in the decision with our ability to elect representatives to speak on our behalf. As you go to the poll I ask that you consider the following issues when you decide to vote.
Speaking to the issue of the size of the legislature I humbly offer these honest opinions:
1) Accessible and affordable representation is not the same as big government as many proponents of downsizing have stated. Representation is the most valuable tax dollar we invest if we use it correctly. Taxation without representation is a core value of this country and I would hate to see us throw it away for so little assumed savings.
2) Our representative is our voice at county meetings to speak on our behalf. If our elected officials are not speaking for us, we have the right to fire them every two years. It is imperative that I remind myself and all concerned that we live in a representative republic, not a democracy for obvious reasons.
3) It is my opinion that our current legislature is right sized at 25. It gives both rural areas and cities the fairest and most accurate voice, when used properly, for all segments of the county! Currently the cities have 36 percent of the representation on the legislature, I believe it is a fair percentage when we apply current population numbers. That percentage could change if we reduce.
4) The actual savings on your tax bill if we reduced to 19 will be around 6/10 of a penny per thousand. Isn't our voice worth more than that.
5) Some have stated that we have too much government and too many layers of government in this county. Perhaps they are correct in their assessment when it comes to bureaucracy in government, yes, I agree there is too much, particularly from the state and federal governments, but I believe there is no such thing as too much representation in government. Representation should not be viewed in the same light as bureaucracy, it is much more valuable. There are people in countries across the world who risk their lives to have the representation that we have. I don't understand why would we throw that away by voting to reduce the number of representative voices.
6) With the current number of representatives available for us I believe it makes it more difficult for one party or another to gain too much control in the legislature thereby giving all people of the county a greater voice, no matter what party they may be in. A look at elections throughout the history of the county since we went to a county legislature supports this point.
7) The loss of honest and sincere debate by qualified candidates could actually cost us more than we might gain if we reduce the size of the legislature. That is not a chance I hope we are willing to take. Vigorous debate is not always a bad thing! The Book of Proverbs states that there is wisdom in the council of many.
8) I ask that we stand up for the traditional American way and preserve what so many of our young men and women have served for, the right and ability to elect fair and accessible representation. I ask that you vote no to downsizing the Chautauqua County Legislature on Nov. 8 and keep your voice loud and clear in county government! Our future might depend on it!
Ron Lemon is a resident of Frewsburg. He has served as a Chautauqua County legislator and legislature clerk.