June 17, 2010
ALBANY, N.Y. – A movement is growing statewide for better oversight of the hundreds of special taxing districts around the state. Garbage collection, water, sewers – around New York, these services are often controlled by special taxing districts. There are hundreds of sub-governments, controlled by boards of commissioners, with direct access to the public’s pocketbook.
With the recession aggravating anger over taxes, some citizens would like to “vote the rascals out.” But election attorney and activist David Stonehill says few people know when the elections are, and he has joined with others to call for election reform.
“Essentially, it’s anarchy. Elections are being held all over the place, at different times, and people just aren’t aware of it.”
In New York, more than 100 special district elections are held every year, which means an election on the average of every 11 days. According to Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, special-district voter turnout averages a meager three to five percent. She has a solution to offer, however.
“By having election day for all these districts on the same day – which we’re going to say would be the same day as fire districts, the second Tuesday in December – everyone will know it’s their day to go vote in their special district election, and we will have more people participating in democracy.”
David Stonehill calls the situation “murky” and alleges that the people who control the wide array of special taxing districts take advantage of that murkiness to stay in power.
“We have districts for sanitation and water, and there’s a Memorial Day Parade taxing district, as well. It’s government run amok.”
Stonehill urges disgruntled taxpayers to tell their representatives to consider an Election Day Consolidation bill pending in the legislature.