Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Allegany County: Legislator Karl Graves calls government dysfunctional

Letter to the Editor:
I’ve hear it said that a Camel is a horse designed by a committee.  If you stand back and take a look at the dysfunction in our Federal, State and yes, our County Legislature, I can see how many would agree.
Over the years I have served on many public, private, social and religious committees.  The private ones, for me, were the most productive.  At least they were honest about it. They were profit driven and said so right up front. If you didn’t produce you were given your hat and shown the door.
Other than the normal interactions you and I all have with our state and federal governments I have little knowledge of how they actually work.  The oxymoron is that it appears they don’t “work”.  For us at least. Apparently the key is to get yourself elected. Thereupon you receive a salary, generous benefits and a retirement.  Some get a staff, office space, vehicles, airplanes and housing.  All at taxpayer expense. Some who have held these jobs were great and powerful people who accomplished much for their fellow man.  Others did nothing but line their own pockets and those of their families.
At the local level it’s been my experience that our village and town governments, most likely because they are the closest to the people, are the most efficient.  Most times the salary and benefits (if any) are way less than what the person actually spends in time and effort doing the job. They basically volunteer for those jobs because of their love of and pride in their community.
I’d like to share with you a few of my observations about County government.  First, it’s complex. There are 26 official departments that deal with a variety of laws, issues and concerns.  They range from transportation to health care. Without a specific course of higher education, that might take years to achieve, few who serve actually know every law, rule, contract, regulation or policy that goes with each of those departments.
A novice, newly elected has basically four options.  Educate yourself, rely on other legislators or support the department head. The fourth option I will discuss later in this text.  The first option was easy for me as I have previous experience in local government. Not so for a majority of the board.  The problem with the second is every person is basically a book. The outside may look interesting, but you really need a basic understanding of what’s inside before you buy it. For a novice, the third option is better, but it comes with a word of caution.  This person is also a “book” that, if you are going to pin all your hopes and dreams on, you really need to know chapter and verse.
My experience is that few of my peers really get to know and understand the motivations of our department heads.  Thankfully for you and me I’ve found most to be truly hard working, dedicated public servants.  My impression is that some seem to forget they were “appointed” and think they’ve been “anointed”. The dysfunction I mentioned earlier is derived from the two different roles each of us must play.  A Legislators job is to be an advocate of the Taxpayer.  A guardian of the public purse.  The department head also has that responsibility but also must follow the dictates of superior government and an advocate for his or her trade. The balancing act is performed by the interaction of these two forces. It can save the Taxpayers or it can be very costly. Needless to say I am not an advocate of the blind support I’ve often seen our legislature give to some of these department heads.
The fourth option, the best in my opinion, is to listen to the people. They will either support you or forsake you. All you need to do is listen. When their voices call out for a reduction in taxes – don’t vote for increases!  Yes, sometimes there is no choice. When that happens it shouldn’t be buried in confusing “budget figures”.  It should be intelligently explained. In my view there is no stronger force on this earth than an honestly well educated public. Lincoln once said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
If this reasoning appeals to you I strongly recommend that you discuss these issues with your legislators.  Although sometimes it appears the reverse, in actuality they work for you.  Also, there is a budget hearing for the Tentative 2017 Budget on Thursday, November 10th at 7 p.m. in the Legislative Chambers, 3rd floor of the addition to the Court House. Plan to attend if you can.
Sincerely yours, Karl Graves, Legislator District IV
DISTRICT I Towns: Angelica, Belfast, Caneadea, Centerville, Granger, Hume, Rushford  Village: Angelica
Crandall, Curt CrandallCW@alleganyco.com28 Sherman St  PO Box 183 Belfast, NY 14711585-365-2372 (h)    716-372-1717(b)  716-268-9446 (f)
Hopkins, Judith D. hopkinsj@alleganyco.com11038 Rt19A Fillmore, NY 14735585-567-8974
Pullen, Esq., David T. dpullen@rppclaw.com21 Minard Street, PO Box 182 Fillmore, NY 14735585-567-8354 (h)   585-567-2222 (b)   585-567-2221(f)

Towns: Amity, Clarksville, Cuba, Friendship, New Hudson, Ward Villages: Belmont and Cuba

Healy, Dwight M Healydm@alleganyco.com4979 Starvation Hill Rd Belmont, NY 14813 585-268-5644 (h)
Decker, David A deckerd@alleganyco.com9314 County Road 7 Cuba, NY  14727585-968-8409 (h)
Ungermann, Jr. Norman G. ungermannn@alleganyco.com8917 Ungermann Rd Cuba, NY 14727 585-968-1790 (h)

Towns: Alma, Bolivar, Genesee, Independence, Scio, Willing, Wirt Villages: Bolivar and Richburg

Burt, Scott R. burtsr@alleganyco.com3876 State Route 19, Scio NY 14880585-593-5158 (h)
Fanton, Dwight R. fantond@alleganyco.com2347 Fulmer Valley Road Wellsville, NY 14895 585-593-5683 (h)
Root, Debra A RootD@alleganyco.com5569 Wolfspring Rd., Scio, NY 14880716-498-4303 (c)

Towns: Wellsville and Andover  Villages: Wellsville and Andover
LaForge, Kevin S.
PO Box 425 Wellsville, NY 14895 585-808-9525 (h)   585-593-1084 (f)
O'Grady, Timothy
Wellsville, NY 14895 
Graves, Karl 2495 Lewis Road Wellsville, NY 14895 585-593-0525(h)   585-610-7286 (c)

Towns: Alfred, Allen, Almond, Birdsall, Burns, Grove, West Almond  Villages: Alfred, Almond, Canaseraga
Curran, Philip B. curran5@alleganyco.com5431 County Rd. 12 Alfred Station, NY 14803607-382-1065 (w)
Jessup, Charles O. jessupc@alleganyco.comPO Box 42, 863 St. Rt. 244. Alfred Station, NY 14803 607-587-8802 (h)
McGraw, Aaron M. mcgrawa@alleganyco.com1296 Randolph Road Alfred Station, NY 14803 607-382-8158 (c)