At least one legislator got it right
One, a 1969 song by Three Dog Night noted, is the loneliest number. That must have been sentiment going through Legislator Lisa Vanstrom’s mind on the night of April 23.
Vanstrom, who represents the town of Ellicott on the County Legislature, cast the only “no” vote regarding a $150,000 loan to Forestville. While the resolution passed by a 17-1 margin, almost all the legislators who voted “yes” were not thinking of those they represent in their district or the precedent of their actions.
They were, instead, thinking about being the good guy. The representative who came to the rescue. Not about the elected official who was voted in to make tough choices.
What a mistake.
Vanstrom, who grew up a Dunkirk resident, thought through all those items as well as the ramifications of the loan and the lack of interest shown by village residents weeks after the proposed 445 percent tax hike proposal was announced right before spring.
Without being able to secure any other loans – since it was about to default on a payment to the Evans Bank for $250,000 – the village was nearly out of money.
“I was furious that night (of the vote),” Vanstrom said in a phone interview earlier this month. “Only 80 voters turned out in the (March) election.”
Ah, local representation.
Two months later, we hope county legislators are coming to terms with their enabling action. Since their give-away, the village has told its residents that dissolution is a nasty rumor and it is planning to add another position to its allegedly strapped payroll – an auditor.
“All the naysayers out there saying the village should not be a village anymore, this is what we are going to do about it,” said Forestville Mayor Kevin Johnson in regard to the new hire, but in disregard to the spirit of the loan resolution that was approved by the Legislature.
Part of that resolution called for a true study of dissolving the village. With county money in hand, resistance to any change in the village remains.
“It’s important to understand this is not a hand out,” Legislator George Borrello of Hanover said the night of the loan vote. “The village has stood up and answered as to how they will prevent another situation like this, and I believe they’re on a path to making an informed decision sometime in the future about possible consolidation.”
Even respected legislators, Borrello and County Executive Vince Horrigan included, seem as though they have been scammed by village leaders. Johnson, who came to the Legislature meeting that night, seemed humbled. But since the receiving loan, the village’s tone has changed.
Give Vanstrom credit. She saw this coming.
“A 400 percent tax hike?” she questioned. “There was no way it was ever going to be that high. It was all a big scare tactic.”
Less than a week after the loan was approved, the village reduced its tax increase to 112 percent. After the “scare tactic,” many of the residents in the village apparently found this hike acceptable.
Vanstrom still does not. “Their poor planning was our emergency,” she said.
Forestville may be first entity to have a legitimate financial crisis, but it will not be last. Other municipalities are feeling the pressure to keep maintaining what they have.
Raising taxes is always an option for those entities. But now, thanks to the County Legislature, one government entity has become a last-chance lender for another.
Solving one problem has just created more.
John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.