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July 3, 2018 - 6:52pm

Legislature to try again to get voter approval for four-year, staggered terms

posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news, notify.

Eight years ago voters turned down a proposal to shift the years served in a single term for a county legislator from two years to four but the idea has resurfaced again and the county is scheduling a public hearing on the proposal for 5:30 p.m., Aug. 8, in the Old Courthouse.

The proposed change in the local law would take effect with the 2019 election and have four current members of the legislature run for four-year terms and five would run for two-year terms; then in 2021, those five final two-year term seats would become four-year terms in that election. Thus, the terms of legislators would be staggered instead of all nine members running at once.

That, said Marianne Clattenburg, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, raises the possibility that at some point in the future a majority of the legislature could consist of all new members with few experienced members.

"There's a lot to learn in this job," Clattenburg said.

Members on Monday shared a common experience: Voters surprised that somebody they seemingly just voted for coming around and asking for petition signatures for office.

"I know," Clattenberg said, "I’ll be passing out petitions and they’ll say, ‘what are you doing?’ and I’ll say, ‘I have to run again.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well, it’s only two years.’ ‘It is?’ They just sometimes automatically assume we’re like the City Council."

Clattenberg said the County Legislature is the last elected body in the county with two-year terms.

Legislator Shelly Stein agreed.

"Whenever I’m at people’s doors with petitions they say, ‘why are you here again?’ " Stein said. "It really is the fact that they expect our terms to mirror everybody else’s in the county.”

It's up to voters to change the local law that governs the length of terms for legislators, Legislator Andrew Young noted, and said, "I think it just makes sense."

At the public hearing in 2010, two people spoke in favor of the change and two against, including former Legislator John Sackett.

"I believe that you cannot have representative government by having longer terms of office," Sackett said.

The proposal failed among voters, however, despite getting popular support in The Batavian's admittedly unscientific online polls. The Batavian ran three polls about the topic (one, two, three).

Brian Graz
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Why is John Sackett the only rational person quoted in this report... ???

The main recourse the voters [taxpayers] really have is the vote. SO, why would county legislators want to extend their terms... ???

Sadly the taxpayers [voters] are not involved enough... but for those who are, we need Term Limits, Term Limits, Term Limits... and if 2yr terms are accepted for NYS Senators and Assemblymen, and US Congressmen... why in hell should we acquiesce to 4yr terms for County legislators? What are they afraid off???

They want the job, they want the power. they want the pay... but they boo-hoo having to collect petitions [and campaign(?)]... are you kidding me! Is this an elitist mentality or what???!!!!!!

John Roach
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Our State Assembly and State Senate and US House of Representatives (Congress) are two (2) year terms. I do not think our County Legislators are any better than them and need a 4 year term.

Daniel Norstrand
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Typical politicians. The people voted against it. The people voted against it. The people voted against it. Oh, is it ridiculous to keep repeating it? If you don't like it don't run. How about term limits? How about term limits? How about term limits?

Michael Pullinzi
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Ditto to all three above.

Daniel Norstrand
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Yeah. "Term Limits" is certainly a "Term" worth repeating.

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