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October 26, 2018 - 11:49am

Former county legislator encourages support for staggered, four-year terms

posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news.

Statement from Craig Yunker, CEO of CY Farms and a former county legislator:

Proposal #1 on the Nov. 6th ballot authorizes extending the terms of Genesee County legislators from two to four years with staggered terms. I served on the Legislature for 13 years. As the former Chair of the Genesee County Legislature I strongly support this proposal.

The learning curve for a new legislator is a minimum of two to three years. To expect new legislators to be competent in two years is unreasonable. For example, capital projects extend over years and losing legislators is a deterrent to their successful completion. Staggered terms that are included in this proposal diminishes the possibility of a complete turnover in one year. Such a turnover would likely result in a period of less effectiveness of the legislature during the ramp up as the newly elected body find their sea legs. The cost of running elections is not a trivial matter. This proposal has the potential to reduce election expenses for the county.

Political parties have difficulty recruiting candidates for public office. Not having to campaign, with the related expense, every two years will make the positions more attractive to the kind of candidates that want to be effective at running the county instead of playing politics.

Most towns and villages have recognized these issues and extended the terms for elected officials to four years. No significant negatives for this proposal have been presented and there are many other positives. So I ask your support for Proposal 1.

John Roach
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Members of the US Congress (the House of Representatives) and the New York State Assembly and State Senate, all serve two (2) year terms. If they can manage to serve two year terms, members of the Genesee County Legislature should be able to do it also. This same idea was voted down a few years ago and should be voted down again.

Brian Heick
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The reason that we have two-year terms is so we can vote them out if they are not doing a good job. I'm pretty sure nobody wants to wait 4 years to vote somebody out that isn't doing a good job.

Howard B. Owens
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Members of Congress have staffs with multiple people on those staffs, serve on committees with large staffs, and are assisted by either majority or minority services with even large staffs. They are also paid a handsome wage to essentially make serving in Congress a full-time job. All of this makes up for gaps of knowledge and provides a way to streamline information consumption and members are able to give their full attention to their jobs. The comparison doesn't really hold.

We're not voting them out after two years so what makes you think retaining the status quo is such a benefit?

I like to trust the experts where appropriate. The county legislators know their jobs better than any of this. They're the experts in this case. They say it's needed. There is no discernable harm the comes with the change. It only makes sense to approve it.

John Roach
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The current system has worked fine for decades. As for staff, they have one, called the County Manager and other department heads.

Other than the Legislaors not having to face the voters every 2 years, there is no benefit to the public to change from 2 years to 4.

Howard B. Owens
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The experts say it hasn't been working.

As for staff, there's no comparison. Saying there is a county manager and department heads is nothing like the staff a member of Congress has -- staff to respond to constituents, staff to deal with the media, staff to research legislation, staff to interpret legislation, staff to interact with other departments. There is no logical way to argue that the learning curve between the two offices is in anyway comparable.

And it doesn't harm voters to have four-year terms. So why not listen to the subject matter experts and heed their advice?

Howard B. Owens
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BTW: if your concern really is about the voters and what's best for them, what would be best for them is more competitive races. Four-year terms are far more likely to encourage more candidates to jump in. Maybe. Maybe not. We won't know unless it's tried, and there are certainly other issues at play. But we do know the two-year system isn't producing more competitive races.

John Roach
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The duties and responsibilities of a Legislator are much less than a member of Congress and I think the staff size is adequate for a Legislator that represents 1/9 of a County of about 60,000. And while they say 2 years is not working, not one ever left office because he/she had to run every 2 years. Again, 2 year terms have worked for decades. As for having completive races, I have no problem with that, but I doubt the length of the term of office will be an incentive for more to run. I understand that a Legislator might find it a pain to have to run every 2 years. It can seem they never stop running, but to me, that is not a bad thing.

John Roach
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How does the public benefit from a 4 year term as compared to a 2 year term?

Howard B. Owens
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John, all I'm addressing is your contention that two-year terms work for Congress so they should work for the County Legislature. It's a non-sequitur. The jobs are in no way comparable and while the workload in the county is probably less, the amount of help a member of Congress gets is substantial. There is just no case to be made that the Legislature shouldn't be four years because Congress is two. You might as well compare apple cheesecake with lemon-lime pie.

And I didn't say a four-year term would, per se, benefit the public. I said more candidates for office would benefit the public. Making campaigning less grueling might have a positive effect on encouraging people to run for the office. That's an unknown. But we do know the current system isn't working in that regard.

As for the current system working, again, the subject matter experts say it is not working. I see no evidence to dispute that claim.

John Roach
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The evidence that 2 year terms are working is that not one Legislator has ever said they will not run again because running every two years is too grueling or facing the voters every 2 years is too hard. And not one current Legislator has said they will not run next year if we don't go to 4 year terms..

And 2 year terms does give us, the voters, a chance to remove a person faster if they do something we object to. True, around here in Genesee County, that does not happen too often, but that is no reason to change what is working just so Legislators don't have to face the voters as often.

I say vote NO and keep them more accountable. We voted this idea down a few years ago and should do so again.

Daniel Norstrand
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Every one of those trying to ram this thing down the throat of voters should be voted out. The repetitive mashing of the same self serving slop is a waste of time & resources.

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