February 5, 2017

Grains of Salt (v19): Waiting for Consensus

I've been neglecting things that are going on around Syracuse and Central New York, what with all of the bluster and noise coming from Washington DC, so I thought it was time to throw around a few Grains of Salt.

You remember the Consensus Commission, right? The group of local businessmen, educators, movers and shakers that were trying t come up with some kind of recommendation for a metropolitan government in this neck of the woods?

I've written about this group a few times in the past, but not lately, as we're still waiting for their final report. The group itself has been quiet, so I guess I can go a little easy on myself.  For example, their official Facebook page hasn't been updated since August of last year, when they posted an article by Tim Knauss of the Post-Standard and syracuse.com stating that their report would be out by "mid-fall" according to Consensus co-chair Neal Murphy. Noting that "no deadline has been set" Knauss reported
Since any public referendum on the initiatives is likely more than a year away, the commission is taking time to deliberate and refine its recommendations...It's more important that we get this right than that we commit to an arbitrary timetable. 
While the commission has been deliberative (the latest was that the report was expected by the end of January, which has come and gone with no update), and while I've been neglectful, I can assure you our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo and our local county executive, OnJoanie Mahoney, have not been sitting idly by, oh no sirree.

Cuomo announced a plan to Empower Voters to Approve Plans to Lower the Cost of Local Government as part of his Rolling State of the State Address, delivered in various cities across the state. This 23rd recommendation from Cuomo requires county execs to come up with consolidation plans, put them in front of their county legislature (not the impacted jurisdiction) by August 1, 2017. If the county's elected officials don't get the plan implemented, it goes to the voters on the ballot in November for approval or, if not approved, the process starts all over again the following year, with similar August and November deadlines.

Sounds like fun, right? Because, after all, according to the Gov,
The property tax is the most burdensome tax to homeowners and business owners in every part of the state, inhibiting their ability to grow and contribute to our economy. By challenging local governments to create a plan to streamline government bureaucracy for voter approval, this innovative and powerful initiative will empower communities and lead to real, recurring property tax savings... this proposal will reduce the burden of the tax and establish New York as a national model for government efficiency.
OnJoanie has said that she thinks people want consolidation, and she'd put a proposal on the table; for example,
We're good at parks, and we can take on the city parks. I would put it on a referendum if I thought the public wanted that, really, regardless of the other political agendas in town. 
We'll see whether Mahoney's judgment on what the people want is on target or not when the final report from Consensus gets here, but if the open comment period last year is any indication, there may bes less support for it than she thinks.

And, of course, we'll have to wait and see if the state legislature, or the three men in a room, even approve the Gov's plan. There's no guarantee the local politicians will set aside their spiteful political agendas and support this, and state senators and representatives are very likely to get an earful.

Consensus, anyone?