To secure these rights
The constitutions of the various states spell out the specific powers municipalities within their borders possess to provide such amenities to citizens. A New York State handbook on adopting local laws, for instance, (www.dos.ny.gov/lg/publications/Adopting_Local_Laws_in_New_York_State.pdf) lists among the benefits that municipalities are charged with protecting “public health in connection with regulation of sanitation, disposal of waste products, interments, cemeteries, keeping of animals; protection of the public from the deleterious effects of industrial and commercial developments, fraudulent sales, weights and measures; proper growth of the municipality through zoning.” And the phrase “health, safety and welfare,” which summarizes those benefits, is one that one sees repeatedly in municipal and land use case law, not only in New York, but all over the country.
It was, accordingly, baffling at the latest meeting of the Town of Delaware to hear one of the board members dismiss with an epithet a townsperson who told them, after the board adopted a resolution that some believe could affect public health, that she would hold them responsible for any adverse health effects that might result (www.riverreporteronline.com/news/16/2012/06/20/delaware-board-resolution....) It is one thing for a public official to have a difference of opinion with some of his or her constituents about the health impacts of some activity—in this case natural gas drilling. It is quite another to abdicate responsibility when one of them expresses a concern for the impact of a town action on public health.
So though the board is within its rights to pass a resolution that, in its opinion, is not detrimental to public health, it must also recognize in doing so that it most certainly is responsible for the consequences should that opinion prove to be wrong. Every public official in this country is entrusted by our laws, our traditions and our founding documents with the care of their constituents’ health. It is, after all, a key component of the Declaration’s first inalienable right: life. They can’t just blow it off.