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Politics in a One-Party Town

22 Oct

Last night, I did  my civic duty and attended a candidate forum in the town of Clarence, sponsored by my local chamber of commerce. (Note: I am a member of my local Democratic Committee). The entire panel of candidates was made up of white males. There is one female candidate for town board, Tracy Francisco, but she was unable to attend.  The forum had been sponsored by the League of Women Voters in the past, but is now run by the Chamber of Commerce. 

Stefan Mychajliw was there, and he delivered his well-polished shtick. His knowledge of audits and finances is thin, so he spends time doing what he does best – being gregarious and charming. He talks much of his family, heritage, and upbringing, and he loves to talk about leading by example – his first audit was his own office, e.g. Unfortunately, Kevin Gaughan did not appear. This is a shame, because he’s smart and people like what he has to say. 

Alan Getter is a Clarence CPA who is running against incumbent Ed Rath. They were asked a few questions about the recent Child Protective Services issues, and about county roads. Rath pointed out that Clarence has more county roads than any other town (although not the most lane-miles). Some of the roads in town are crumbling, and the small, discretionary portion of the county budget doesn’t allow for everything to be fixed right away. The long-gone Board of Supervisors enjoyed shunting responsibility for maintaining rural and suburban roads to the county, and it might be time to start un-doing that, and returning responsibility to the towns. 

There was an overarching theme in all of these matters in a town where Democrats are treated as mythical creatures, like unicorns or the Loch Ness Monster: 

Can you explain how you’ll properly staff & fund your particular government office, while simultaneously demagoguing public spending and taxes?” 

In Clarence, town races also come down to, “Please expound on your dedication to maintaining parks and green space, and explain how we will encourage commercial investment to help prop up the tax base“. 

Everyone hates taxes, and everyone made the point that they would keep a close eye on runaway government spending, but the same people are concerned about the quality of roads and whether the town is getting its “fair share” of county money. I mean, we rely on the county and state for police services, so really there’s not a lot of room for complaint. If Clarence wants green space (a hot-button issue) and to improve its roadways, then it should do it, and stop waiting for others to do so. 

I got a chance to hear Democratic Sheriff candidate Dick Dobson speak for the first time last night – Tim Howard was absent. Dobson is very articulate and persuasive, and explained how his work organizing a police force in East Timor gave him a unique perspective in how a police force should operate. He also gave the best rationale for maintaining a quality, secure holding center I’ve ever heard a Democratic candidate for that office give, and the way in which he delivered it had the crowd really paying attention. Dobson’s really polished, and if Bert Dunn would get the hell out of the race, Dobson would have an excellent shot. 

Finally, “highway supervisor” seems like a purely ministerial thing – maintain town roads, plow them, and clear debris. The only reason it’s an elected position is because it’s a patronage pit in every town, and the best way to grow and maintain political power is to control a handful of jobs – this is now completely controlled by the town’s one-party system. There is no reason why it should be elected, and towns should make it an appointed position. 

Maybe Gaughan’s government downsizing effort was a good idea in terms of saving people money.