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Opinion: Taxation Without Proper Representation

Written By Editor on 6/16/14 | 6/16/14


We like to beat up on the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors here at the Schoharie News, often on matters of ideological or philosophical differences, but lately we've become more set in our opinion that many of the board's faults can be attributed more to the system of government itself rather than those administering it.

Take for example last month's contentious decision to move forward on the controversial stream bank project. Nine of sixteen Supervisors voted against county taxpayers shouldering the burden of approximately $2.6 million in additional non-budgeted costs, but due to the board's antiquated weighted vote system, it passed nonetheless. 

In fact, when you take into consideration that Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAlister's one vote in favor of resuming the project was worth more than almost five of his colleagues votes in opposition, it's a wonder that legislators from Blenheim, Conesville, or any of the small towns continue to participate in this farce of democracy at all. 

If tomorrow morning residents of Schoharie County were informed that their votes would no longer be counted equally in countywide elections, but that it would be distributed based on their town's respective share of the county's overall population, immediate lawsuits and protests would (rightfully) flood the state's legal system. 

With that in mind, why doesn't the same hold true of our representatives in county government? Because, "legally," the weighted vote system is 100% constitutional and okay, even though its origins emerged out of a landmark Supreme Court decision that found non-proportional representation to violate the concept of "one man, one vote."

But rather than adopt a system where one man or one woman had just one vote, dozens of counties statewide adopted legislative forms of government where one man could have more than five or six men's votes on any given issue, which has had the effect of creating a situation where the solution is far worse than the original sin. 

A sin Schoharie County lawmakers have ignored for far too long. 

We don't pretend to know what the right course of action is on this disconcerting state of unequal representation on the county board, although we have our own ideas, but we do believe that if the Board of Supervisors is willing to examine the status of county government through a workshop committee or charter commission, that no harm can come out of working for the public's interests. 
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