As an unsuccessful candidate for the Jefferson County Legislature I have found the recent local news interesting reading. Problems like the cost of housing local prison inmates, problems like village judges acting without jurisdiction, problems like St. Lawrence County having too few prosecutors for all the local courts (as well as costs of their jail), problems in the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department including too few deputies. What I dont see yet is the acknowledgment of the slowdown of Canadian shoppers (probably because of a stronger U.S. dollar and higher gas prices here), which will impact county receipts this year.
I go back two years to my platform, which included an immediate study of the whole county criminal justice system, such as what Chemung County did using the Center for Government Research, to make recommendations for streamlining the system and putting resources in areas (be it probation or public defenders) to obtain the best savings. This needs to be done in all three north country counties.
Such a study should reveal management shortcomings (or cost-saving initiatives) in many county departments before they publicly manifest themselves. At the time of the campaign I disagreed with Sheriff John Burns about the size of his force. I thought it too small. I still do, and the large local drug trade (shown through recent arrests) bears out my conclusions. I commented that it would be better to do such a study and effect changes when we were in the middle of a mini-sales tax boom, an event which we are at the end of now. All these issues and problems have been conveniently ignored by our elected and hired public servants.
I spoke of a few more things. More transparency: Why dont county department heads have a rotating quarterly public forum so members of the public can see how our taxes, property and sales, are used without the mouthpiece of the county executive? I also spoke of one county/one school district, which would eliminate several millions of dollars of administrators salaries even before looking at other consolidation savings, which would alleviate some of the current school budget issues.
But we have a county leader more concerned with where a letter to the Attorney Generals office is postmarked than in solving our own county problems ourselves (all the local issues over the last few years have been addressed by obtaining funding from state and federal sources not from local initiative). Good times for the newspaper business, but bad times continue for taxpayers and advocates of responsible government.