September 14, 2012

In My Opinion: Mayor explains his feelings on dissolution


---- — I read your editorial on dissolution and am happy for the chance to express my views.

I am leaning against dissolution of the Village of Keeseville, true, but this is only my opinion, and I have only one vote in this process.

The idea that some people might think the Board of Trustees and I are out to save our jobs couldn’t be further from the truth. The board members and I spend countless hours at meetings, on the phone, returning emails, hundreds of hours brainstorming ways to make our community a better place for our residents to live. We don’t do this job because of the money; we do it because we were elected by the majority to make decisions for our community.

Your view of eliminating a level of government is not a bad thought, but let’s start with the level that is not following the wishes of their voters. Our level of government lives, eats, shops and has direct contact with our voters every day. We can give an immediate response to taxpayers, we control our own spending, and we can set the direction our village goes because we are in control of our community’s government and services.

If history is our teacher, then we can learn from one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. He was a great proponent of local government; the bigger and more removed our government is from local control, the worse off we are.

Peter Baynes, in an article for the Utica Observer-Dispatch said, “scape-goating the village governments, which provide essential services that their communities need and desire in a cost-effective manner, is unproductive at best and, at worst, diverts attention from focusing on the real causes of the high taxes that are putting New York businesses at a competitive disadvantage and driving residents and companies out of the state. Acknowledging the real causes of New York’s high property taxes and demanding that our elected state leaders address these causes are essential steps that must be taken to truly revitalize New York.”

The process that the Village of Keeseville is now completing is a study on improving government services. It is also for developing a plan for dissolution should: 1. A petition be received by the village for a referendum to be held for a dissolution vote, or 2. The Board of Trustees choose to bring the issue to a vote without a petition being filed.

This study was not brought forth by a petition but to take advantage of a New York state grant program so the local taxpayer wouldn’t be saddled with a $50,000 bill should one be received. Pretty smart move by those trustees.

No, I am not in favor of dissolving the village government, but that is my opinion. I am not all the voters of this community, and it is not to save my high-paying job. When I took office, we reduced the mayor’s compensation package by $7,743 at the first board meeting. I have not yet nor will I receive reimbursement for expenses associated with this job, and not one trustee, to my knowledge, has received any.

I can say, without one doubt, that the village employees work extremely hard every day to provide the best services they can to the citizens of the village.

It will be the voters’ decision when the time comes. The state law, although very flawed, is clear how the process works, and as elected officials we have sworn an oath to uphold the law, whichever direction it takes.

Whatever the Board of Trustees decides, whether to take it to a vote or not, the law is very clear that 10 percent of the eligible voters in the village can petition for the vote.

There is a big difference in how dissolution is handled with or without a petition. The Board of Trustees must decide which is the better process for the citizens of the community to go through. It is not simply “take it to a vote;” there are consequences to that action.

I believe there will be a vote, one way or another, and the community will decide — the democratic process.

Dale Holderman is mayor of the

Village of Keeseville.