ALBANY—The Assembly's Ways & Means committee just voted to advance Andrew Cuomo's government consolidation bill by a vote of 31 to 1. Assemblyman Jack McEneny provided the lone dissenting vote, and later told me why.
"I think there's a danger of the tyranny of the majority," he said. While most associate him with the City of Albany, where he was born, educated, and still resides, McEneny's district includes the "hill towns" south and west of the city limits, and the villages of Voorheesville and Altamont. And consider this tidbit, which McEneny threw in to flash even more government-geek cred: he has, in the course of his career, worked for Albany County, the City of Albany, the State of New York, the Albany School District, the federal government (he ran the census in Albany County, twice) and the Colombian government while a member of the Peace Corps.
"A village may hold out on a zoning issue only to be abolished by a well-funded advertising campaign," he said. Such initiative and referendum campaigns, encouraged under the Cuomo proposal, would not be clearly regulated by any campaign finance laws, McEneny said. "If you abolish them for a tax break, then they can wind up as one tenth of a suburban town, which can then do whatever it wants with their zoning."
There's also the issue of representation. If you come from a village of 2,000 within a town of 50,000, how much harder will it be to win a seat on a town board as compared to a village board?
"A village may find itself quickly becoming a small, poor neighborhood in a large town," he said.
Further, McEneny said, most savings and consolidation would be achieved through merging school districts and police and fire forces, not doing away with special districts specializing in "sludge." It is, as columnist Jay Gallagher said, the low-hanging fruit.
The measure's passage is all but assured, with strong support from Republicans and Democrats alike.