To the Editor,
February 17, 2015 marked an important victory for the taxpayers of Clarkstown. And set an important precedent that will help to insure Highway Superintendents across New York State continue to have the power to utilize their equipment to appropriately maintain Town Highways for the safety of their constituents. And be held responsible at the voting booth if those constituents feel they failed to do so. The February 17th ruling of Judge Robert M. Berliner upholds New York State Highway Law, which indicates that in order for a Highway superintendent to fulfill the duties of their position. They must have control and supervision over equipment, and specific operating personnel (mechanics). It also shuts the door on the possibility of party politics holding the safety of the public hostage for political gain.
For instance, let’s just say that a fleet manager in charge of the mechanics that perform maintenance on a snow plow truck or pothole patcher, is beholden to one party. And the elected Highway superintendant, in charge of “John Doe” street, is beholden to a different party. Then a call comes in to the highway Department from a citizen that alerts the elected official to a dangerous situation that exists on John Doe Street, like a huge pothole on a turn, or it’s covered in snow and ice. The official tells his driver to go get the snow plow truck and plow and salt John Doe Street or go get the Patcher and fix that hole on John Doe Street. The driver says “sorry chief that truck is up on the lift with it’s tires off” or “the fleet manager said he has to grease the bearings as part of routine maintenance,” which in a mechanics mind is of the upmost importance. During the hour it takes for those bearings to be greased your or my child is driving down John Doe Street. Who do you as a taxpayer/citizen have the power to hold responsible? Who gets the blame for the sub-par road maintenance? The elected official, of course, who was powerless do anything because he had zero control over what the fleet manager, whose priorities were different at a critical point in time, chose to do.
Now I know a member of one party would never improperly use his authority to make a member of another party look bad just so that a member of his own party could beat the other guy in the next election. And I’m certainly not insinuating that that’s what the intention was in Clarkstown, when the power was removed from the elected official. But the door was left wide open for such shenanigans to take place. And the Supreme Court of New York State saw this and took appropriate action. The system worked.
Now, if the reason for the consolidation truly was budgetary, and party politics had no bearing on the board’s decision as to whom should be in charge of it, then logic suggests power of the new consolidated garage will be turned over to the elected Highway official. Right? I mean everything stays the same, except in the scenario given above when the fleet manager says he’s got to grease the bearing, the road can wait an hour. His boss says “the hell it can,” get that truck on the road NOW. And the mechanic says, “OK boss.” Simple, right? If the elected official screws up he gets the boot from you and me in the voting booth. Right?.
OR…. (Just to play devil’s advocate. Couldn’t really happen, right?) The Clarkstown Town Board spends more of their constituent’s tax dollars to go against the Supreme Court of New York State to try and take the power of accountability out of your hands and put it back in their own laps.
We all know they’ll do the right thing. Right?