By Eugenia Moskowitz
More than 100 people filled Washingtonville Middle School’s auditorium on July 7 for the public presentation by the Blooming Grove Citizens’ Committee for Ward Research, an eight-member group chaired by Perry Ragusa, which calls itself bipartisan and stresses the need for a non-partisan perspective on wards.
In the presentation, committee member and former Blooming Grove Councilman Brandon Nielsen said that Blooming Grove is not red or blue but “more of a purple town,” and this color scheme fit with the event’s purpose: to explain to the public how the “ward” versus “at-large” voting systems work, and why the committee feels wards would benefit Blooming Grove.
Nielsen explained that towns have an at-large voting system by default, but can choose to change to wards when a closer relation by voting areas to their representatives appears necessary. He said that Blooming Grove, with two villages, multiple hamlets (non-government entities defined as “population concentrations”), and rural outlying areas each with specific and differing wants, needs, and characters lends itself to what wards offer, namely a closer relation of ward residents to their elected representative who must reside in the ward. Or, as Nielsen said, giving people: “one hand to shake, one throat to choke.”
He added that a change from four to six wards would create a more democratic process of governance and that the two additional council members’ $12,500 annual salary apiece would be a fraction of the town’s $14 million budget. Since ward lines are drawn based on population, the Village of Washingtonville would get two wards, the Village of South Blooming Grove one ward, and the other areas of Blooming Grove three wards, breaking up the longstanding tendency, he said, of the majority of board members residing in the Village of Washingtonville. The supervisor would be the seventh board member and be elected at-large by the entire town. All positions can be for either two- or four-year terms and can be staggered so that an entire board is not replaced with inexperienced people in one election cycle.
For the complete story see the Friday, July 15 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post.