Small Mindedness in Small Doses can have Huge Consequences

28 May

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Via Bruce Andriatch’s column today, I find this recount of Kevin Gaughan’s “The Cost” tour’s stop in the Village of Blasdell:

we arrived in Blasdell last night with heads high and spirits even higher. As we entered village hall, though, Mayor Ernie Jewett summoned me to his office and changed everything. He said that I could not use the word “consolidation” or “dissolution” in my presentation. If I did, he would end the meeting and have me removed from the hall.

Two of my students from UB Law School, Lindsay Heckler and Dan Lesniewski, were along last night. Dan was outraged by Jewett’s stricture. Lindsay seemed almost saddened at the notion that anyone, let alone a public official, would attempt to curtail another’s right to free speech.

But to cast Mayor Jewett’s order in a constitutional context elevates his small gesture beyond its worth. Jewett acted out of fear. Fear of having residents learn that perhaps there’s a better way to govern than his; fear that citizens would connect the dots between too much government and too little growth; and fear that a system that’s served him better than it has served residents might be forced to change.

The once proud Village of Blasdell today bears more resemblance to an abandoned community. In the over 30 years since the steel industry that sustained it collapsed, no government and no politician has reversed its painful decline. If you are under 18 or over 65 and live in Blasdell, according to the most recent U.S. Census, you likely live near or under the poverty line. And no matter what your age, the value your home, the number of your neighbors, and the quality of your life have all declined.

Against that painful backdrop, last night Ernie Jewett refused to discuss the need for reform. As far more powerful politicians throughout history have learned, though, while he can ban the idea of change in his chambers, he cannot banish it from the minds of citizens.

Constitutional issues of prior restraint of political speech aside, the entire community should be outraged at this sheer, patent idiocy. Gaughan’s advocacy for downsizing and consolidation is dangerous to a certain class of people which thrives on waste, redundancy, and ignorance. What Mr. Jewett did by prohibiting Gaughan from bringing up consolidation is underscore its very need. We don’t need small-minded emperors running needless political entities which serve to spend taxpayer money in unsustainable ways. What harm is there if the villages of Hamburg and Blasdell are no more? I don’t really know. But I do know that there’s great harm in prohibiting the discussion of that topic.

Andriatch spoke with Mr. Jewett:

Asked about the matter the following day, Jewett offered this response: “Mr. Gaughan was invited to speak about his previous presentations to all the boards, village and town. And he was told that it was the unanimous decision of the [Blasdell] Board of Trustees that he was welcome to talk about downsizing, and he was told he was not allowed to talk about dissolving the village.”

Why is that?

“Why is that?” Jewett said, repeating the question as if shocked that it needed to be asked. “Because the village is willing to listen to any way that we can better serve our constituents, but that’s a decision that the board feels is up to the village residents and the board.”

The mayor noted that Blasdell already has taken steps to consolidate some services, including merging its building department with the Town of Hamburg’s. And he is open to other ways to save taxpayers money.

Asked if refusing to allow a speaker to use a word or espouse an idea might have been overkill, Jewett reiterated that Gaughan was invited to speak about downsizing.

Perhaps, Mr. Jewett, the best way for you to serve your constituents would be to make them constituents of a different political corporate entity. Sounds to me as if you inadvertently made that case for Mr. Gaughan.

13 Responses to “Small Mindedness in Small Doses can have Huge Consequences”

  1. Eric P. May 28, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    I went to High School with Ernie Jewett: we graduated the same year. Ernie was not, in my opinion, a very bright fellow. From high school meathead to Mayor McCheese. The fact that He, along with the Village Board are small-minded and insecure about relinquishing any of their massive, part-time powers is not a suprise to me.
    The V/O Blasdell should have been dissolved years ago and incorporated into the Town of Hamburg. The Village of Blasdell serves no real purpose other than depressing property values by shit-hammering the property owners with an extra property tax bill.

  2. Mike May 28, 2008 at 1:24 pm #

    keisertown never gets any press, this is not fair.

  3. Ward May 28, 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    You would be surprised at how radioactive is the issue of consolidation. I was involved in the effort to merge the Hamburg Village police into the Town during the 90s, and the heat generated by that campaign was spectacular. The proles loved their high-priced security guards, just as they love their bloated village boards. The difference then was that the Mayor of Hamburg suppported the change.

  4. Bob in Blasdell May 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    I think Blasdell, Angola, Hamburg, Farnham and North Collins should all dissolve.

    Village government is so 1985.

    Time to change people.

    Is this Jewett guy up for re-election next year? If so, someone should challenge him. If my memory serves me right, he hasn’t had an opponent the last couple of times he ran.

    Bedenko For Blasdell… He’s Help Us Kill The Village.

    You’ve got my vote Alan!

  5. Bob in Blasdell May 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm #

    Gaughan has his own blog:

    http://www.thecost.wordpress.com

    Also, read this editorial from The Hamburg Sun:

    http://www.thesunnews.net/pasteditions_view.php3?idkey=7327

  6. barney May 29, 2008 at 6:07 pm #

    I do not support the mayor’s actions, consolidation should be on the table.

    However, living in Genesee County I like having a town government. In small towns one can actually be involved in the decisions at the local level; if you do not like the decisions anyone can show up at meetings or even run for office. You do not have to be a millionare or suck up to PACs to run for the town board.

    Having lived in NYC and Atlanta where a resident has no contact with local officials in my small town the Town Clerk and Town Supervisior know my name.

    To run for county govt or to get involved requires a larger commitment, traveling farther distances to meetings and more money to even think about running for office.

    To me the ultimate idea is the Vermont town meeting.

    Where NY State and the Counties should be looking to cut is with all of the Authorities or 100k patronage jobs.

  7. Denizen May 30, 2008 at 1:39 am #

    Barney, I don’t think anyone is talking about dissolving rural townships, the idea is to get rid of the tiny villages which are useless, redundant, and antiquated in the 21st century.

    Also, there is much confusion as to what a “town” means in WNY. Built-out suburban “towns” of 40-100+K people like Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, Amherst, ect. are anything but “ye olde townes” of the old days, they’re populous urban appendages which should have to incorporate into cities or agglomerate with neighbors to form large, consolidated municipalities.

    Evans and Holland are real TOWNS, Amherst is not.

  8. Chaz May 30, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    Denizen,

    Aren’t old rest belt cities are useless, redundant, and antiquated in the 21st century and should be gotten rid of?

  9. Mr. Jones May 30, 2008 at 9:42 am #

    Esmonde does a nice job with this piece:

    http://www.buffalonews.com/donnesmonde/story/358512.html

  10. Eez May 31, 2008 at 1:29 am #

    I’m not sure if it’s the aging populace resistant to all things progress, politicians afraid of losing power, or some combination of both, but the number of local governments is startling. I mean, Sloan has a mayor…really? Consolidation should start small…Sloan dissolves into Cheektowaga, Kenmore into the Town of Tonawanda, Village of Hamburg into Town of Hamburg, etc. See how that goes, and proceed from there. If you can show residents potential tax savings, etc., it might make it more appealing.

  11. barney May 31, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    And the residents of Sloan, Hamburg & Kenmore lose their voices.

    I would not want to be governed by the Rath building when before I had a city hall down the street. Which form of government is going to be more responsive? Which form of government will the local citizens be able to participate in? The large towns or mega county govt that this “reform” movement proposes will limit and make real democracy harder. Only professionals with money backing would be able to run for office.

    Again to me, the best way to cut taxes is reign in the out of control state authorities and 100k political patronage jobs.

  12. Aviagra September 10, 2008 at 11:32 am #

    I loved the post. I think your thinking is nearly matching the great sukrat’s cocept.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When Will The Cost Be Too Much To Bear? « First Time Caller, Long Time Listener - May 28, 2008

    […]   Kevin’s Blog at TheCost.org – “HEARD IN HAMBURG AND BANNED IN BLASDELL” Buffalo Pundit – “Small Mindedness in Small Doses can have Huge Consequences” Buffalo News – […]

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