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Local Governments Should

Tend Our Roads, Not Our Minds

Do we really expect our local elected officials to tell us what to think? Quite the opposite, probably.

And yet instead of focusing on paving streets, keeping tax at a reasonable level, and providing whatever might be considered essential services, they seem increasingly determined to do just that.

Three examples popped up in the past few days that suggest this may be spinning out of control, including at the February meeting of the county Board of Representatives, where discussion of two proposed resolutions on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol ate up an hour of rancorous debate.

A few days earlier, it surfaced that two unspecified Milford Town Planning Board members had threatened to fine the Village of Milford if it failed to remove the “Trump 2024” on Route 28 across from Wood Bull Antiques. (The billboard is in the town, but on property owned by the village.)

“Trump 2024,” the billboard on Route 28 north of the
Village of Milford, may be coming down in April. Not due to protests: The contract is running out and Rome Sign Co. has a new customer.

Let’s get back to basics. State law that created counties describes such as “formed for the purpose of exercising such powers and discharging such duties of local government and administration of public affairs as may be imposed or conferred upon it by law.” Pretty work-a-day, as it should be.

So what are the county reps doing trying to come up with a statement telling the world how ALL 59,493 of us think about the sorry happenings of Jan. 6?

Happily, they couldn’t agree.

The Democrats’ resolution, proposed by Andrew Stammel, D-Oneonta, declares the county board “condemns the violent insurrection that occurred at the U.S. Capitol and the incitement that led up to it.”

The Republicans’ counter-resolution, proposed by Republicans Ed Frazier, Unadilla, and Dan Wilber, Burlington, declares the county board condemns the insurrection, but also “the violent riots through the country and the continuing commentary that serves to offer justifications for that which is indefensible.”

Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, called the GOP resolution “false equivalency.” Fair ‘nuff.

Wilber said, “You need to recognize that it’s all connected. We have an anger problem in this country that needs to be addressed. Both sides of the aisle need to tone it down.” Fair ‘nuff.

Since both resolutions were filed late, each required a two-thirds majority to pass. Both failed to reach that mark.

All Democrats voted for theirs. All Republicans voted for theirs. (The board’s sole Conservative, Meg Kennedy, voted aye on both.)

County Board chairman David Bliss referred the matter to Kennedy’s Admin Committee for further cerebration. Please, don’t. Let it drop. It just not the county board’s business.

If the county Democratic or Republican county committees are driven to issue such a declaration, go for it. Don’t speak for all of us.

Same goes for the “Trump 2024” billboard: Towns are defined as “municipal corporations,” to get things done, not to tell us what to think.

Obviously whoever paid for the billboard on Route 28 across from Wood Bull Antiques was trying to be provocative which, short of inciting violence, isn’t against any law we’re aware of.

To some, sure, the sign is like nails scratching on a blackboard. Those of contrary view no doubt are chuckling about the whole dust-up.

It turns out two town Planning Board members, according to Village Mayor Brian Pokorny, approached him a few weeks ago, saying the town would fine the village if the billboard isn’t removed. (The billboard is in the town, but on land owned by the village.)

It turns out, the town Planning Board doesn’t have jurisdiction to levy any fines. The town Zoning Board of Appeals may, but ZBA Chairman Al Bullard doesn’t seem inclined to take it up.

“It sounds like a Democratic plot,” he said, adding the town law governing political signs was intended to prevent “those little signs you put on your front lawn” from staying there forever.

The point is, why is the town getting involved in thought control at all? If people object to the billboard, take up a collection and put up a “Never Trump” billboard down the road.

(Incidentally, the contract runs out in April, and Rome Sign Co. said another business has picked up the contract; “Trump 2024 should be coming down.”)

Milford’s Mayor Pokorny perhaps said it best: “In this world today, no one’s going to agree on politics. I just want to protect the rights we do have and go about it the right way.”

Please, oh government leaders, protect our rights to think as we will. Keep the roads paved, etc., and leave it at that.


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