This is a guest blog post. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the blog’s author. Members of the community are encouraged to submit guest blog posts in order to help identify issues and discover solutions to matters affecting Chemung County.
I had the privilege of serving the community as a Chemung County Legislator from 2007-2011. During that time I was often asked, “How do you like being in the position?”
The answer I gave then is similar to the one I would give now: I greatly enjoyed it, but quickly learned the legislature does not operate as an independent body in the way Chemung County’s Charter – or, more generally, a representative government built upon the theory of separation of powers – envisions.
Recognizing that this fundamental matter affects the way our county government functions in a very significant way, I wrote a Guest View along with the late Terry McLaughlin, also a County Legislator at the time, that was published in the Star Gazette in July, 2007. A copy of the Guest View is embedded below and can also also be accessed here.
I am raising this issue again because unfortunately not much has changed since 2007. With the exception of a few references to matters that the legislature was facing back then, this Guest View almost precisely represents how I feel today.
Almost precisely, because the matters facing Chemung County today – including the mounting financial crisis in the City of Elmira, the status of First Arena, the growing budget deficits in many of the Towns and Villages, decreasing sales tax revenue across the region, the likelihood of increased state mandates in response to changes in the federal tax code, and the rise of crime and drug problems that we all see when we drive across the County – are even more critical, making the need for an independent legislature that involves the public in an open, transparent dialogue more important than ever.
As Terry and I observed in 2007, “American government works because of the separate but equal branches in our county seats, state capitals and in Washington D.C. Neither branch, executive nor legislative, should operate at a higher level than the other. For government to be effective, a series of checks, balances, separation and oversight must be in place.” This tenant is as true now at every level of government today as it ever has been in American history. It is time to finally restore that balance right here at home.