Kevin Gaughan

Sep 23, 2009|

Downsizing advocate

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

More on downsizing now particularly at the top of Orchard Park were voters. Head to the poll today and there -- -- say pulled out because only one polling places open and that's. Sort of a point of contention and Orchard Park in studio to help us sort through this as government reform -- good attorney coming on. Maybe another moniker might apply to the patron saint of downsizing. Promotes Kevin thanks for coming in this morning. Good morning on that you're working Orchard Park we know you wanna get this thing passed today what has your organization been doing in the town. And the opposition. That sure efforts. Are facing are you concerned. And all are you pretty well satisfied with the outcome -- doing your favorite night. Well first of all it's it's a magnificent Western New York to celebrate freedom like going to the polls and having people not politicians decide the size and cost of our local government. With respect to our magnificent volunteers. Just like in west Seneca and -- And and Hamburg coming up in November the folks in Orchard Park. Which is to the magnificent job really great Orchard Park captain Paul Becker who oversaw the oversaw the efforts -- What we did touch on was we we we -- about Tim the last three months going door to door and I'm discussing the relationship between too much government too little economic growth and our community. A topic which everyone is so it is most concerned. And most of all we've listened and by the way I had the privilege of of going along and I probably isn't over 3000 homes and Orchard Park in the past three months in his right alarmed. Most of us struggle. Western New Yorkers long before the national economy collapse on top of our already dying local one. -- go to bed every night worried about the job their pension health care of the children's education. And the reason is of one of the principal reasons is as we pay the fifth highest property taxes in America there are 3086. Colonies in America and only for them buyer local property taxes -- than here economy. The we've talked about it we implemented it. The and -- in some fashion we've all this citizens whined about it but for the first time now they're -- -- law that I discovered. That permits people circulate the petition cause these votes. Today in a very I think exciting democratic and almost magical way folks going to be able to go into voting Booth and closed the curtain decide for themselves. The size and cost to the government I think that's wonderful. Now voting is from eleven until nine today at one location. Do you think that there is an attempt to make it somewhat inconvenient. For voters today. I was disappointed to when the town board about a month and a half ago when they announce the particulars of of the referendum. I was disappointed that they've they've they've reduced the usual number of ten polling places in the Orchard Park for for an election to to just one. I must say not even in west Seneca or Evans the first two -- which -- caused Leo referendum. Could the elected officials bring themselves to -- democracy in that way to me that something that happens in Iran but not Orchard Park. But here's my my view the yum. It's behavior like that. That to them over the years I've witnessed by the way I've I've I've been over 250 town border village board meetings here in Western New York. In the past year and a half. And it's sort of you know behavior like that seems to me that may. Citizens just even more determined to change the system. Can we talk with the editor of the orchard park press mr. Robert Geller a little while ago he said that. If this thing does pass tonight the savings will amount to about 40000. Dollars when you take in the consideration pensions benefits all that stuff salary. He's told us that the board members make about 18000 dollars a year do you agree what that figure and I mean is that really a lot of money when you come. And think about how big the town of Orchard Park is. Because it probably will. Save each taxpayer just a couple of bucks right. Well two things I disagree strongly with that asserts and I've done the research from our search has been up there now offer for for four years fact of the matter is an Orchard Park each council seat. Cost taxpayers about 35000 dollars when you when you do comfort out of the compensation but healthcare and retirement pensions so that's 70000 dollars by eliminating two council seats. And by the way this is not about -- individuals this is just about eliminating seats any any person still has the right to run for office. So that's 70000 dollars a year that's 700000 dollars over a decade but the real savings on the real savings which they don't mention. To rise in the fact that my research shows an Orchard Park for instance to since 1960 that the 2727. Former council members who have been receiving the lifetime. Benefits that's called legacy costs that's what's destroying the State of New York. Today Orchard Park residents vote two point three million dollars to current and former council members for their lifetime benefits that's a ton of money. By going in and voting yes today. You can reduce that by 40% and perhaps create more opportunity and more prospects for young people. Who after they grow up here in fall in love with this magnificent community. Will be able to stay here and find a job and have their own life. In other a lot of people who say this is this is fine this is great. It's still shouldn't we be talking about merging Orchard Park and west senate that are cold and in Boston and go and go for the is really the big potatoes here. You know I must say the there's something about elected officials the who. Bring up -- what I call the shell game which is if you asked them to reform themselves they say what about Albany in Albany says what about the commission's of the authorities in the story say what about the school districts. Well listen we have to bring that shell game to an end and I have found a way to do that papers of this law. In which we can change local government here's -- now in theory but might firm conviction and that is once we change ourselves in the just like anything else in life. The first thing have to do is change yourself. I can tell you going to board meetings over and over here folks the Tom board members say I want to Albany last week and I said you have to change and nothing changes. But once we change ourselves we can create a local political class that then can go to Albany and say hey fellas listen. We here in Western Europe we've changed we've did it we've sacrificed -- now it's your turn. -- the secondly by the way with respect this whole idea that somehow this doesn't save enough money here. Got a whole mindset and culture. First of all reminds you -- AIG herb Merrill Lynch executives saying hey what's wrong with my million dollars to 500 million dollar company. -- -- that it's no drop of rain believes it's responsible for the flawed the truth is -- every drop of rain is responsible for the flood the flood of of of hemorrhaging people. And and jobs and young people here. We've lost 252000. Western New Yorkers in the recent past and I did the math what that means is every hour and forty minutes someone walks out of here now so we have style. Let me ask you about the use the benefits that you referred to in the town of Orchard Park. Something like two point three million dollars and so now by the town of Orchard Park to current and former. Members of the town government but it it this downsizing effort today is successful. That's not gonna go away his. Well the the the practice of of -- pain are part time council members you're right it's not -- go away but this is an opportunity to at least reduce reduce the obligation on taxpayers and that burden that very broad burden on our narrow shoulders and I think that's a great step forward. You know this seems to be an attempt to cut two seats from every town board is that the case in this -- 81 size fits all. For all town boards. While I agreed with the idea that one size does not fit all but the fact of the matter is today here in Erie county we have 25 times 23 of which have a five member board. So what's that what this is really about is letting people decide if they want to change that. That's number one number two the truth of the matter is in my research it's very difficult to find outside of the State of New York. Any town in many instances two or three or five times the size of Orchard Park that's governed by more than three member aboard the purpose of reducing the number of politicians is to increase citizens' voice. By reestablishing a number of citizen committees so that we folks we Western New York is an Orchard Park residents can have a more direct say. And more influence and an authority on their own community affairs that's what this is really about. When we talked earlier with mister dollar the other early orchard park press he would mention was that it was in his opinion and and urging a couple of current town departments. Would save more money than this to agree or disagree. I'm sure that's the truth and and and -- but what's also true is we've been here in discussions about all these other ways of savings and saving money and we still pay the fifth highest property taxes so I would -- and applaud any other. Efforts to work to change this system but they're not mutually exclusive. The and we have gotten to the point in our I think people are a little bit grown we area politicians just talking about change and nothing happening. This is grassroots petition driven me. How do people know how to bring this to the state level it can it be done the same way -- -- -- have to initiate this themselves. What a wonderful question my view is that this this this very narrow referendum power that I just happen to come across because I'm a nerd and I was reading this the New York State at all in the middle of the night one night. The I'm not much else is happening. And Dem might use this if we can succeed in this and we can demonstrate to ourselves into our public service that referendum power something the folks believe and we we turned out 35% of people in in in west Seneca and in Evanston and our first referenda that's twice the primary I think we're gonna get a dirt good turnout today. The -- politics at its best will will will load will ensue and that is politicians say gee folks like the referendum power let's expand it. Let's let's become more like other states we are the least progressive state in new York state of giving citizens the referendum power. And I'm looking forward to continuing our hope to succeed so that we can strengthen. Other than a lot of opposition and Orchard Park to your plan. There was also a lot of opposition I disagree there's opposition among elected officials. A forgive me John right maybe activists and elected for just exactly right thank you for correcting me same thing happened in the town -- on the issue where. Where was it. More abrasive which -- You know it's interesting that having the privilege of going town to town and village to village and missed this in our early meetings with volunteers they always say to me -- you don't understand and our town. You know are this is the toughest on in this is the most abrasive and here's the fact because we're a community imperil. This this tension in the air this rank your bitterness that informs our town board meetings and indeed too much of our lives. To rise in the fact of our dysfunctional community dysfunctional economy and so if we can change said if we can create more opportunity if we can stem the hemorrhage of people and jobs I think a lot of that will go away and I can tell you this going to Tom board meeting outside of New York State. You know if you go here. As a citizen you're told to sit down remain quiet not making quick moves. Outside of New York State town board meetings are much more joyous and inclusive and it's a bunch of people sitting around with a few elected officials and collaborating to solve problems that's the type of environment and on trying to restore here in our community. After Orchard Park today what's next. Next a week from yesterday on Tuesday the twenty ninth the town of -- votes and than the town of Hamburg this November my plan and aspiration is to have two or three towns vote every two or three months of that. So that at some point -- to say that I completed my idea and and and fulfill my obligation in my about to a to have every Western New York citizens have an opportunity to go and two voting Booth and and and make this decision I used to have a life. But now have a mission and and idea I can tell you it's a great great education great privilege to do this work some elected officials to look toppled and do in the same thing that happened -- Orchard Park was on the -- this is resistance. The heard much about it -- asking I would say the answer to that is yes. Kevin thanks so much for coming in this morning -- on -- -- nice to see you both. Kevin -- the attorney and downsizing advocate here in Western New York.