"Liberty is local" was a recurring theme of speakers today at the inaugural convention of the Genesee County Libertarian Party.
Some 60 people gathered Homestead Event Center in the Batavia City Centre to ratify the party's charter and nominate the party's first two candidates for office.
Jim Rosenbeck and Lisa Whitehead will be on the November ballot as candidates for at-large seats on the Batavia City Council.
"The Genesee County Libertarian Party is going to represent trust, transparency and truth," said Phil Ricci, party chairman. "We're not going to tell you what to think. If you disagree with our position, we will try to educate you on why we believe what we believe. The Republicans and Democrats will tell you that we're on the fringe, but we will show people we're on the local level, we're here to represent you."
Guest speakers included Drew Beeman, Greater Rochester Libertarian Party chairman, attorney Paul Wolf (first inset), and Mark Axinn (second inset), chairman of the New York Libertarian Party.
Beeman congratulated the Genesee County Libertarians for coming together with an energy and numbers that is unique to the region.
His group represents all of the counties surrounding Rochester and he said he would welcome more counties breaking way and forming their own parties. It will take that kind of energy, he said, to reverse the trend statewide and in the nation to constrain individual liberty.
"Gary Johnson got 1 percent of the vote," Beeman said. "Are you going to have a Libertarian Party president anytime soon? Probably not. But we could have a Batavia City Council member. We could have a school board member. Liberty is local."
Picking up on Ricci's comment about the propaganda of the major parties to portray Libertarians as on the political fringe, Beeman noted that when you sit down and talk with people about their views of individual liberty, they actually believe what the Libertarian Party believes.
"The Libertarian Party is for people who don't want to push around others nor be pushed around themselves," Beeman said.
Wolf is an expert on reinventing government. He's registered as a Democrat, but Ricci said after reading his Web site, he told him, "No, you're a Libertarian."
There are three themes local Libertarian candidates can run on, Wolf said: That there is too much government, that there is wasteful spending and there is a culture of secrecy.
Wolf was critical of New York's layers of local governments -- villages within towns, authorities and agencies covering overlapping jurisdictions.
Mentioning a consultant's report in the City of Batavia that faulted local residents for having negative attitudes, Wolfe said, "Isn't it funny that the study said it's the attitude of citizens that's the problem. I think it's the attitude of politicians that's the problem."
On wasteful spending, he was critical of the Genesee County Economic Development Center's tax subsidies to COR Development for Dick's Sporting Goods, mocking the perception that the GCEDC board declared Dick's a tourist destination (the board didn't do that). He also questioned the $240,000 Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, earned in 2012.
"This spending is not sustainable and it doesn't make sense," Wolf said.
Government likes to operate with as little transparency as possible, Wolf said. He said he did a study on three years of meeting minutes for his local City Council and found that the council went into secret session at every meeting it held during the three years. Those private sessions lasted an average of 60 minutes, while public sessions lasted an average 54 minutes.
"They're not used to being held accountable, not used to being questioned," Wolf said. "So what you're doing is important."
The message of individual liberty and smaller government appeals to most people, Axinn said, if they're used to pulling levers for Ds or Rs.
"Most people have a live and let live attitude and they need to realize that it works at the government level, too, if they will vote it in," Axinn said.
What is happening in Genesee County for the cause of liberty is important for the whole state, Axinn said.
"We're a small voice in a symphony of bigger government, but the truth is, we're a necessary voice and an important voice and thank you all for being that voice in Genesee County."
In running for City Council, Whitehead said she will hold true to her libertarian values, which includes promoting a business-friendly city and lowering taxes.
"We should be creating an environment that is friendly to business, not crushing it," she said.
"Shouldn't all people be entitled to keep the fruits of their labor," Whitehead said.
Rosenbeck said Libertarians are already making a difference in local politics. The issues have ranged from garbage collection to licensing landlords.
"You will remember, we spoke out to remove the City of Batavia from the garbage tote and trash collection business and they did just that," Rosenbeck said. "Guess what? The sky didn't fall. Somehow everyone's garbage got picked up this week. Freedom and choice is a good thing, my friend."
The Libertarian message opposing retail tax breaks has also resonated with local voters, Rosenbeck said.
"As elections approach in the fall, political insiders will attempt to frame us as a fringe movement," Rosenbeck said. "They will try to marginalize us and dismiss our message. They will patronize us and treat us as if we are just petulant little children. They won't take us seriously because for way too long, it has been all about duopoly. It has been all about two parties defining the message and providing the candidates, but remember we are the voice of reason. Our message resonates in our neighborhoods. We are here, we are engaged and we are on point. It's time to reject the status quo."
Jim Rosenbeck and Lisa Whitehead