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COLUMN: From the supervisor - Van Buren offers alternative to historic method

The following is Van Buren Supervisor Claude Sykes’ reply to the letter received from Joseph Amico, president of the NYS Association of Town Highway Superintendents, which ran in last week’s Baldwinsville Messenger.

Dear President Joseph Amico:

The Town of Van Buren received your letter on Aug. 7, 2012, regarding elected vs. appointed superintendents.

The Town of Van Buren is seeking this change because we feel it is what is best for “our” town. As you know, each town can determine how they would like to have their superintendent to serve via public referendum. Van Buren is simply offering an alternative to the historic method. The final say rests with the voters.

Your letter attempts to justify that which may be no longer justifiable, if it ever was. The laws on this subject are antiquated and should be changed in light of the economic times with which we are faced. If ever a united team effort was needed – it is now.

Appointed superintendents afford taxpayers with:

  • Move accountability
  • More transparency
  • Maximized effectiveness
  • Improved administration and planning
  • Qualifications based on experience, knowledge and abilities – not on electability as determined by political parties
  • Elimination of competing agendas – fosters common goals

Your letter talks about protecting voters’ rights, the same voters who are taxpayers, who deserve the improvements as outlined above, rather than the historic business as usual elected position, with the inherent problems you naturally did not address including but not limited to:

  • Absentee superintendents who sometimes do not show up at the highway garage or may be there on a part-time basis while being paid for full-time.
  • Lack of proper training, abilities and experience to properly administer and manage the department.
  • The autonomy that is often displayed that is detrimental to cooperation between the town board and superintendent.
  • Lack of accountability and transparency of superintendents who often hide behind the belief by most taxpayers that the superintendent answers to the town board.
  • Problems often go unresolved because a taxpayer’s only recourse for resolution is with the person (superintendent) who is part of the problem.
  • The fact that villages, cities, counties and the state all operate with appointed officials.
  • That often there is no choice for voters since incumbents often run unopposed.
  • Many times elected superintendents act “unprofessional” because they believe they are untouchable due to their elected status.
  • The fact that the public has limited knowledge on which to judge their highway superintendents, which usually boil down to: are my roads plowed, potholes filled, roads paved and swept when necessary? As you know there are many, many aspects to the job that the public has no knowledge of and thus cast an uninformed vote.
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