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December 09, 2016
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Sullivan’s charter amendment was warranted and proper

Ira J. Cohen

As for amendments to the charter, both the charter itself and state law provide for amendments to be made by a majority. The state law clearly authorizes many, if not most amendments to a charter to be made by a majority of legislators. For some matters, however, specifically delineated, the law requires an additional step—approval by a majority of the public voting at a referendum. Some referendums are discretionary but some are mandatory, depending on the substance of the amendment. The editorial’s title contending that “Changing the charter should not be so easy” is erroneous both factually and philosophically. The current statutory scheme confirms the very essence of our representative form of government—we the people elect representatives to make policy decisions on our behalf. We imbue them with the power to make and to change laws. The fact that our state law carves out some exceptions requiring that certain specific matters be also approved by a majority of the public is both reasonable and more than adequate to assure a democratic process.

I have long advocated for an elected chief executive as opposed to an appointed one, but those counties, like Sullivan, that still have an appointed manager will function more effectively by permitting the age-old democratic principal of majority rule to flourish. This will empower and protect the will of the elected representative and therefore the will of the people.

[Ira J. Cohen is treasurer of Sullivan County, NY.]