In the News | Press

Democrats can ensure checks and balances in county government

Ted O'Brien and Carrie M. Andrews
Guest essayists

The decision by the Democrat and Chronicle not to endorse candidates in this year's county legislative races is a great disservice to this community. Persistent, annual $50 million county budget deficits, the lack of meaningful job creation and overburdened taxpayers demand legislators who are ready and willing to take action.

Every high school student knows that a legislature should conduct itself as a separate branch of government — serving as an important "check" on the power of the executive. Unfortunately, our county legislature majority seems to see its role as one of being "yes" men and women for the administration — approving everything proposed by the county executive, and running interference for the administration at every opportunity, instead of asserting itself as a legislative body and providing true oversight.

Remember the hastily adopted "F.A.I.R" plan, (subsequently largely overturned in court), which was passed by the legislature within three hours of its submittal for consideration? There was no time to understand its implications, but it was adopted by the majority in its entirety almost immediately.

And where was the legislature when the selection of a new public defender was pushed through in the face of huge outcry from the bar association, faith communities and other interested citizens for a merit-based selection process as was used in the past? The decision to load the legislative chambers with armed guards and metal detectors to force the selection through did nothing to advance community interests.

Even a casual reader of this paper has an awareness of the many scandals that have erupted over the past several years — from strippers and cigar expenses at the airport to taxpayer funds being used to benefit well-connected political insiders. Yet the legislature majority failed to do even basic inquiry into the circumstances surrounding these scandals, and refuses to make truly bipartisan appointments to local boards like the water authority and the airport authority.

And this legislature is perhaps the only legislature in the state that routinely refuses to adopt any amendments to the administration's proposed budgets. So, we are disappointed that the Democrat and Chronicle will not evaluate candidates for county Legislature this year. This is a critical year. We cannot send men and women to the legislature who put party loyalty ahead of acting in the best interest of the community.

We ask voters to put the "check" back in "checks and balances" by electing Democrats to the county Legislature in every corner of this community.

Ted O'Brien is minority leader in the county Legislature and Carrie M. Andrews is deputy minority leader.