Tivoli Mayor Bryan Cranna has dropped his controversial plan to double the terms of office for village officials.
His proposal faced uniform opposition at a July 18 public hearing at Village Hall. And before anybody could speak then, Cranna withdrew his original resolution, which would have allowed him and four village trustees to make the decision. Instead, he said, he planned to introduce new legislation in August opening the decision to public vote.
But on July 26, Cranna notified the village board via e-mail that “after careful thought and consideration… and having listened closely to the comments at the public hearing,” he would not be placing the resolution on the August agenda.
The Tivoli mayor and four trustees presently serve two-year terms. The goal of his proposed resolution was to save money every two years by reducing the number of elections by half.
At the public hearing, more than 35 residents were in the village meeting room in historic Watts De Peyster Hall when Cranna gaveled the meeting to order and made his unexpected announcement.
“I wanted to let you know I have pulled that resolution from this evening’s agenda and we will reintroduce the legislation in August….,” he said. He then explained that the law would be amended so that it would require a public vote on the issue, if the village board passed it.
During the public hearing, not a single person spoke out in support of the measure.
A number of people took issue with the cost reasoning for the change. Asked to justify the proposed change, Cranna said it would save a few hundred dollars spent every year on elections but he also said the elections had an impact on the village clerk’s office and was a distraction from village projects.
The residents weren’t impressed.
“I printed out a copy of our budget and when I look at the amount that we spent on an election, it says the actual spent in 2012 is $305,” Karen Cleaveland said. “If we really need to find money in the budget, we ought to be looking a little harder than the election.”
“You can’t put a price on democracy,” Matthew Kobalkin said.
While requiring a full village vote on such a proposal was appreciated by some residents in attendance, others felt that the proposal itself was a waste of time and money.
“Is it possible for you guys to just drop this right now? I haven’t heard a single person that is in favor of this….” said John Cliett. “Are we going to have to have an election that is going to cost us money to decide if we’re going to have more elections? I mean, is that what we’re going to do?”
“Sometimes, unfortunately, you have to spend funds to get to a certain goal,” Cranna replied.
The mayor’s proposal also faced opposition from two village trustees, Joel Griffith and Susan Ezrati.
“I feel very strongly that this [change] is not in the best interests of the village,” said Griffith. “We’re talking about saving a very small amount of money in exchange for you all to give up your democratic power to not be able to give a job performance evaluation every two years, only every four years…. I think putting a price on democracy is not something I would try to do but I hope that it’s substantially north of three, four, five hundred dollars a year.”
“I hope that the board will have an opportunity to consider just dropping this subject, not just whether it will be a public [referendum] because there will be expense to a public [referendum],” Ezrati added.
Trustees Mike Leedy and Robin Bruno took no public position on the issue at the meeting.
In the end, resident Vince DuBois seemed to sum up the opposition this way: Referring to the incorporation of the village of Tivoli, he said, “This is the 140th anniversary. It’s worked for 140 years. Why change it?”