One of the Cayuga County Legislature’s biggest decisions is not expected to be made in time for voters to have a say this year.
For more than three years, the Legislature has been discussing changing the county’s government structure by adopting a charter that could lead to establishing an elected executive in charge of day-to-day operations and with significant decision-making powers.
But adopting a charter requires approval of the county’s voters, and time is running out to have such a proposal ready for the November general election ballot.
At last week’s Legislature Government Operations Committee meeting, Chairman Chris Petrus began a discussion on the charter process by saying the Legislature needs to decide if it will create a commission tasked with drafting a proposed document or if it will create one with a committee of legislators.
But Legislature Chairman David Gould asked for more information about the process itself and the options legislators could include in a charter.
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“This is the future of the county,” Gould said. “We need an hour’s time from the county attorneys to explain it. … It’s a very important thing.”
A presentation by county attorneys was tentatively set for an hour before the Legislature’s regular meeting would start in July.
One of Gould’s man concerns is how, if an elected executive office is established, powers would be distributed between that person and the Legislature.
“If that’s an elected executive, elected by the people of this county, and we don’t contain that power or that authority, that person can come in and get rid of all your staff and get rid of a lot of other people,” Gould said.
Petrus explained that the charter can give an executive varying degrees of power, so Gould’s concerns will be important to discuss.
But because of the need for more discussion, the Legislature is unlikely to have a charter proposal adopted by August, which is the deadline for getting a question on the ballot.
“I think it’s impossible at this point,” Petrus said in an interview a few days after the committee meeting, saying he’ll now focus on trying to get consensus for a proposal that voters could consider in the fall of 2023.
Petrus said he understands the concerns some lawmakers have, and he is not pushing harder to have something adopted for this year because in the end, he wants to have a proposal that receives unanimous or near-unanimous support for the Legislature.
“I think that’s crucial,” he said. “We want to try to proceed in the most bipartisan way possible.”
Cayuga County’s current form of government puts the Legislature chair in charge of day-to-day operations, with assistance from a newly created operations officer.
Cayuga County government will soon be running under its first operations officer, but the person in the newly created leadership role will be …
That structure was in place for decades until the Legislature created an appointed administrator position with limited hiring and firing authority. But for roughly a decade ending in the spring of 2019, the county experienced significant turnover in the position, leading to calls for a change.
One question related to county government that will be on the ballot this year is a proposal to reduce the Legislature’s size and create new districts. The Legislature adopted a local law proposing the 15 current districts be re-drawn into 11 seats.
Jeremy Boyer can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer