The existing county legislature is a bargain

To the Editor:

A Dec. 13 letter [“It’s time to start talking about downsizing the county legislature,” by Donald Csaposs] endorsed reducing the size of the Albany County Legislature but provided no justification for doing so other than “to bring this particular body forward into the 21st Century in terms of size and efficiency.”

During 2013-2014, I often spoke at the legislature’s meetings in opposition to shrinking the legislature’s size. I respectfully challenged those who favor a smaller legislature to clearly state their reasons for wanting such a reduction.

Surprisingly they had little to say. No one provided a detailed justification.

My reasons for retaining the current-sized legislature are many. A larger legislature has more collective expertise than a smaller one. More members are available to serve on standing and ad hoc committees.

With society and government becoming more complicated with each passing year, it is important to have a smart legislature. A larger legislature is less likely to be dominated by party bosses and better able to shape good laws and block bad legislation.

With a larger legislature, election districts are smaller and legislators are closer to their constituents.  Rural areas are better represented.

A larger legislature is likely to be more racially and economically diverse and thus more representative of county residents. The costs of waging campaigns is lower in smaller districts thus allowing less wealthy candidates to compete and win.

Both the number and percentage of people of color legislators is likely to be higher with a larger legislature.

The county's annual budget is now more than $700 million. It costs less than $4 million to operate legislature each year. Only $1 million is spent on salaries. The existing legislature is a bargain for Albany County residents.

The legislature is efficient to a considerable extent. It meets once a month except in December. Monthly meetings are often completed in under three hours.

Tom Ellis


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