Wednesday, January 04, 2017
A citizen's group's push to implement a ward system for electing town council members passed a key hurdle Tuesday, as the Town Board set a hearing on a proposed map that would split the town among six wards.
The board set a hearing for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10. Supervisor Robert Fromaget and council members said a map could be finalized as soon as 10 days after the hearing. Fromaget and a group called the Blooming Grove Citizens Committee were the prime movers behind the effort to implement the ward system, believing it would make town government more responsive. Most of the Town Board members opposed it. But the Citizens Committee got 900 signatures, 400 more than needed, and the proposal made it to the Nov. 8 ballot.
After the Nov. 8 vote, board opposition evaporated. "The people have spoken," Councilman George KyDon, who had adamantly opposed wards, said Tuesday. Briefing the Town Board and the public on the proposed map at Tuesday's Town Board workshop session, consultant Joshua Simons, senior research associate at the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, said plans call for the town's population, about 18,050, to be divided into equal-in-population wards of about 3,005. The Village of Washingtonville would be split between two wards and the Village of South Blooming Grove would have one.
Just this week, former Blooming Grove Supervisor and Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, a ward-election opponent, suggested that the Town Board should split the Village of South Blooming Grove among three wards, to head off potential Hasidic control of a council seat. Calhoun said the Village of South Blooming Grove is "under siege" from Hasidic homebuyers.
Kevin Radday, a member of the seven-member oversight committee that's been working on the map, called Calhoun's suggestion to split South Blooming Grove "the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard." Radday, who owns Betty's Country Kitchen in Washingtonville, said the focus should be on responsive government. He said if it comes to pass that a Hasidic representative wins a council seat, then that council member would represent the Hasidic constituency.
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