Saturday, September 08, 2007

Disconnect ...

Disconnect: "to sever the connection of or between" (verb)
"a lack of or a break in connection, consistency, or agreement" (noun)

This word came to mind while reading the Sentinal story about the Town of Verona's disagreement with New York State over street lights. The State plans to install 22 lights to improve the intersection of Rts 365 and 31 -- but expects Verona to pay to light them.

Several people commented that the intersection already was well lit.

"What if we don’t sign it?" asked Highway Superintendent James Weisbrod.

Waller responded that it is his sense that the state is going to insist on the proposed arrangement no matter what.

So we have a disconnect between people making a decision (State), and the ones expected to pay for it (Verona). The result: Unhappy People because they are made to pay for something they don't believe they need.

How about more "disconnects?" ...

  • NY setting Medicaid benefits, but the Counties paying for them.
  • Local school districts going on building binges (e.g., Utica for $300 million, Syracuse maybe a billion), but NY State paying 90+% of the cost.
  • NYRI powerline sending 'cheap' power to Downstate but negatively impacting Upstate.
  • "Growth" policies in one municipality imposing costs (direct, environmental, social, or economic) on people in neighboring municipalities.
  • Legislators who rubber stamp what their party bosses tell them, rather than determining what is best for their constituents.

In the horse-and-buggy days, municipal boundaries represented the limit of people with common interests. But when you can now travel by car through 5 jurisdictions in 5 minutes, that is no longer true. Some of the assumptions when our government was organized are no longer true.

Maybe it's time to look at the assumptions, and change things to reflect reality. Maybe it's time to "reconnect" -- to reorganize and realign how we govern ourselves -- so that the people who make our decisions are representative of all stakeholders -- and exclude the disinterested.

3 comments:

College Educator said...

Oneida County NEEDS to REGIONALIZE. It is long overdue that we take cities, towns and villages and bring them all together under one roof.

The same must be done for schools, if we are to survive.

The time to get rid of politics in the decision making process is at hand.

If we fail to streamline Governments and School Districts; this area is DOOMED!

Anonymous said...

I’ve been reading you for the past few weeks – impressed by your ability to see through the hype and address the core issues. But your post on “disconnects” has shaken my opinion badly. Your last two paragraphs really blow it:
In the horse-and-buggy days, municipal boundaries represented the limit of people with common interests. But when you can now travel by car through 5 jurisdictions in 5 minutes, that is no longer true. Some of the assumptions when our government was organized are no longer true.

Maybe it's time to look at the assumptions, and change things to reflect reality. Maybe it's time to "reconnect" -- to reorganize and realign how we govern ourselves -- so that the people who make our decisions are representative of all stakeholders -- and exclude the disinterested.
These last two paragraphs suggest that you have bought into the “consolidation is panacea” mentality coming out of some segments of Albany. This supposition that the many layers of government in NY are in themselves the problem. The idea that if only we could do away with towns and villages, we could save all sorts of tax dollars, eliminate parochialism, and make NY government work smoothly. The assumption that there is some “one size fits all” solution that can fix it all. The suggestion that because something (like our system of government) is old, it must be outdated.
The entire post up to this point talks about the problems caused by one level of government imposing its will on another. How could diluting my representation by increasing the number of other people whose concerns are the concern of my closet representative, ever enhance my access to services?
I think it’s great that I have a level of government close enough to me that I can speak and be heard. I appreciate that those government services that most directly impact me are the responsibility of people who live in the same neighborhood I do. I know their quality of life is on the line, too.
I agree, though, that if all governments have narrow focus, people who should be working together end up working against each other. But consolidation is the wrong “c” word to be using. If the consolidation-sayers would put the energy they’re putting into forcing us to give up our local voice into building cooperation, collaboration, and coordination instead of wrestling for control, we could work together to preserve local identity while improving regional function.

Strikeslip said...

A great comment, Anonymous!

You make some good points about the down side of "consolidation" that need to be dealt with by anyone serious about the idea.

I think you are right that some people assume that "old" is "outdated" and that there is a "one size fits all" solution for everything.

We should not assume anything. The unsatisfactory results from past "consolidation" efforts should have taught us a lesson about assumptions. Every aspect of every step along the way to any potential "consolidation" needs to be thoroughly vetted by the public and carefully evaluated.

Your thoughtful comments need to be read by others. I'll repost some of your main points, and provide a response in my next post. Maybe we'll find some common ground.