MAYVILLE -Voters in Chautauqua County will have the opportunity to decide if they want to have their representatives in Mayville serve four-year terms rather than two-year terms.
During Wednesday’s Chautauqua County Legislature meeting, lawmakers voted 16 to 1 in favor of a local law that would switch terms from two years to four years. Under rules of the county charter, the amendment must still be approved in a public referendum in order to go into effect.
Only one lawmaker voted against the amendment. North county legislator Terry Niebel (R-Dunkirk) said he’s against the idea of extending terms for several reasons, including his feeling that two-year terms represent a government that is closest to the people it represents, and also the fact that actually extending the term length might drive people away from running, as opposed to drawing them to it.
He also said that data from recent elections disproves the argument that legislators focus too much on running for reelection and not enough time on actual county business.
“One of the arguments that we hear quite often is that with two year terms legislators are running for reelection and with four-year terms they can concentrate more on their legislative duties, but actually this argument runs contrary to facts,” Niebel said. “In 2013, ten (out of 19) legislators ran unopposed: five Republicans and five Democrats. In 2015 that number had risen to eleven (out of 19) legislators running unopposed: eight Republicans and three Democrats…. So as you can see, running for reelection is not a problem for well over 50 percent of the members of this body.”
Niebel was the only legislator to vote against the amendment, which passed by a vote of 16 to 1 (legislators PJ Wendell of Lakewood and Mark Tarbrake of Jamestown were absent).
Even though all other legislators supported the amendment, several stated before the vote that they were personally against the idea, but still felt it should go before the public so it could have a final say in the matter.
“Personally I’m not in favor of a four-year term, for a lot of the reasons that legislator Niebel gave – Congress, state assembly, state senate, they’re all two years,” Said Chuck Nazarro (D-Jamestown). “I also support that it holds us accountable to the people who put us in office. It gives them an opportunity to grade us every two years… But I think it’s good for the public to have a voice in deciding this issue.”
“There are certainly pros or cons, but I think what we’re discussing tonight is are we going to let the voters decide on this,” said George Borrello (R-Irving). “Voting in favor of this is voting to put it on the November ballot. In the time between now and then discussions can occur and people will have the opportunity to discuss with each other and with us the pros and cons, and then hopefully they can make an informed decision.”
In addition to the term length amendment, lawmakers approved another amendment that increased the County Executive’s salary from the current amount of $85,000/year to $92,500. The County Clerk’s salary is seeing a proposed increase from $53,000 to $55,500. And the County Sheriff’s salary would go from $82,500 to $85,000.
It was a approved 15 to 2 with legislators Ron Lemon (R-Frewsburg) and Bob Scudder (R-Fredonia) voting against it.
“At this time, with the way things are economically it’s just best to hold the line at where we are at until we get beyond what county executive Vince Horrigan has called a ‘structural deficit’ that we’re trying to take care of,” Lemon said. “I don’t think it’s prudent for us to be given anybody raises. If we are going to give raises it should be across the board and not just for particular offices – but I’m not in favor of that either at this time.”