On Tuesday, voters will get the chance to reform Rockland County’s 30-year-old charter. The current document, which acts as a blueprint for Rockland’s system of government, was adopted in 1984 and was originally designed to diffuse power among the County Executive and the Legislature. Most of us in County government believe it’s time for an update, but legislative agreement on specific changes has been largely nonexistent.
The process to revise the 25-page charter should have produced a significantly improved document that empowers residents to make changes in the way we are governed. Sadly, nearly all of the meaningful reforms I recommended were shot down in discussions and stripped from consideration. Term limits, for example, are all about good government. The notion of a permanent, indispensable governing body is bad for our residents. The people want good government.
Also missing from the proposed reforms is language that would end political appointments to the legislature, cut patronage jobs and halt politically-connected hiring at the town and village levels of local government.
As County Executive, I stand with all the people of Rockland County. I stand for what is right and what is best and what works to make Rockland better, not a revised County Charter with critical changes reduced to little more than a sales pitch and weakened gestures. I stand for what will strengthen our communities, not what serves the short-term political interests of a few.
Accordingly, I urge residents to vote “NO” on Proposal #4. You will hear the bromides from those with a vested interest in “the system” asking you vote “yes” to “improve” the Charter. But, voting “NO” sends a loud and clear message: I will not accept watered-down changes that only continue the status quo.
Some legislators will look to reassure you, saying “Don’t worry. We’ll take up term limits next year.” Don’t believe them! These are the same voices that refused to hear term limit legislation I sponsored during my time as a legislator.
You will also hear from charter revision advocates that a “yes” vote will improve the budget process by ensuring the County Executive submits the budget earlier than is now mandated.
Here is my pledge AND my challenge: If the proposed Charter revisions are voted down on November 4th, I will voluntarily submit the next budget on the October 1st date now being proposed AND support the entirety of the current proposal IF – and only IF – the Legislature brings forward proposed Charter revisions next year which include term limits and restrictions on appointments and employment of elected officials.
There is only one way your voice will truly be heard: VOTE “NO” on Proposal #4. Make it clear that the ONLY way to support Charter reform is to resubmit critical amendments next year that include an opportunity to vote on the matters important to you: term limits and good government.
Finally, a key question to ask yourself: Based upon what you we’ve seen in the world of politics, do you really want to give the County Legislature MORE authority? Or, do you believe a strong and honest County Executive is best suited to guide our great County forward?
If we are to open the charter for improvements, we must include essential changes sought by the people. Our residents deserve no less. Vote “NO” on Proposal #4.