Monday, October 31, 2016

Legislator Karl Graves: "I'm frustrated"

Letter to the Editor: 
            I’ve been asked by several people about the reason for my recent letters to the editor.  One popular Village Mayor commented to me “It appears some of your fellow Legislators have upset you”.  My comment back was “And rightfully so”. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain what the “rightfully so” is that has made me generate these letters.
            Lincoln once said that “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.” My extrapolation of that narrative is that it seems, with our County Legislature, that no matter how big a hammer you use, sometimes you just cannot pound common sense into people. My goal is to use the “power of the pen” to achieve that goal.
            Yes, I’m frustrated! Save a few sub-committee meetings, travel or family commitments, I’ve tried to attend as many county meetings as I can. I try to ask thoughtful questions, often leading questions specifically designed to give the speaker an opportunity to explain their proposal or (as is more often the case) to get their hidden agenda out into the open – bare it for its true identity – so that we can make a decision based on the truth no matter how ugly it may be.
            What does the Legislature do with that information?  Without so much as a whimper, gives take home vehicles to three (3) employees that historically have never been assigned, under county policy, that privilege. One of whom isn’t even a county resident and has as much as a 2 to 4 hour commute to work each day.  Despite hearing the bare truth about services we provide – on overtime – that are a duplication of services already provided by others refuses to consider any change. And – worst of all – tries to fool the people into believing everything is fine by manipulating “budget figures” to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling that there is no panic or cause for alarm – Hey! We reduced the average tax rate per thousand.  Even though we’ve increased spending by millions of dollars, everything is wonderful, there is no need to make any cuts, eliminate any programs, services or duplications! They smile, nod their heads and go right on making decisions that I think cause you and I financial pain.
            Their unspoken message to you is stay away. You don’t need to be concerned. Don’t bother coming to any meetings.  Our public hearings are just formalities.  It’s a “done deal” anyway because we have the 8 votes necessary to pass it.  Stay fat and happy.  Stay home, be a mushroom. We’ve got you covered.
            What they aren’t telling you is that you have a right to be heard. Whether they agree with you or me makes no difference.  You own the building that they are working in.  You own the very seats they are sitting in.  You are Allegany County.  Yes, their “hope we don’t fail” plan for next year’s budget will likely pass. (It will do so without my support.) What you need to remember – and they are hoping like “H” that you don’t – is that next year is an election year.  In 2017 the entire board is up for election. As is, when this budget passes into reality, they will have only two options – to try and trick you again or face the consequences. In 2017 you will get to decide if it’s a “done deal” or not. I promise to be there to help you remember!
            Another question you might ask is “Well you’ve been there for a while now, why are you just now speaking out?”  When I took office, I had an agenda in mind. To try and convince the county to reduce taxes and increase services. The reality is there are 15 legislators each with their own agenda. I’ve tried to “herd cats” before and it isn’t easy. I tried several different methods. Mad, sad, glad you name it. I’ve come to the realization that the application of “common sense” to a group unwilling to listen, learn, think or study independently – with few exceptions – is impossible. I have no hammer left in my tool box except you. If you think I’m on the right track and have some semblance of common sense left, I ask for your support.
            A hearing on the Tentative 2017 Budget is scheduled for Thursday, November 10th at 7PM in the Legislative Chambers. Please attend if you can. Ask questions and demand thoughtful answers. I also recommend you stay in contact with your legislators. Below is their contact information.
District 1
Hopkins, Judith D.
District 2
Healy, Dwight M
Decker, David A
Ungermann, Jr. Norman G.
District 3
Burt, Scott R.
Fanton, Dwight R.
Root, Debra A
District 4
585-808-9525 (h)   585-593-1084 (f)
O'Grady, Timothy
585-593-0525(h)   585-610-7286 (c)
District 5
Curran, Philip B.
Jessup, Charles O.
McGraw, Aaron M.