Should the town have one assessor or three? That was the issue before the Town of Delaware Board on Wednesday evening September 21.
The board had proposed the change at its last meeting, stating that Delaware was the only town in Sullivan County with three assessors. So, at the meeting they were about to discuss the passing of local law number three for 2011, and set a public hearing. Then, along came Arnold Baum, former member of the town board, fuming about a breech in democracy and the Constitution.
Word of his opposition to the proposed law had spread before the meeting and board members Ed Sykes and Harold Roeder surprisingly said they had second thoughts about it and postponed the vote.
“We need to know more about this so I propose that we table it and have a workshop to learn more about it,” Roeder said. The board was not meant to vote on the issue at the meeting, but only to set a date for a public hearing.
It was later in the meeting when the issue came up that Baum held court, warning, at some length, of dire consequences that would accrue to the town by taking away the rights of the people.
“In past elections, three times the people of this town have said that they do not want one assessor,” Baum said. “This is not just about the appointment of an assessor; it is much greater. It is the Constitution that we are talking about: democracy, freedom of speech. The people have spoken yet this board wants to change this. It is the will of the people.”
Baum explained that as the owner of several properties in the town and in other towns, he was summarily turned down by a single assessor in a neighboring town, he says, unjustly.
“The single assessor is appointed to office for six years and no one can remove her,” he said.
Baum complained that few people ever attend public hearings, leaving serious issues up to a few elected officials. A public hearing on the number of assessors would not be attended by many people, he said.
In support of the three assessor positions, he explained how he went before the board of three assessors and got a fair hearing on lowering his assessment.
“This is not possible with a single assessor,” he said.
Since Baum was the only voice in opposition, this reporter asked him if anyone else joined him in his opinion, seeking whether this was the opinion of one person only. No one answered for several seconds until Gerry Euker, the chairman of the planning board, said that he supported Baum but would express his arguments at the public hearing.
The board will hold a special workshop meeting on the issue on October 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the town hall.