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December 08, 2016
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Government for the people

As Delaware resident Liam Murphy has pointed out, once elected, public officials are bound to serve all their townspeople, not only the ones who voted for them. It’s true that sometimes a black-and-white choice must be made that will make some townspeople unhappy. In those instances, officials are entitled to vote in keeping with what they perceive to be the views held by the majority (or plurality, in the case of councilpersons) that elected them. But as this recent survey makes clear, they must also be mindful as to whether their opinion as to what the majority favors is in fact accurate. In cases where there is a massive public outcry, it behooves them to exercise due diligence to find out what the people they serve really want them to do.

It is against this background that the recent letter to Governor Cuomo signed by Town of Delaware Superintendent Ed Sykes, Delaware councilman Hal Roeder and Fremont Supervisor George Conklin, appealing for gas drilling to commence immediately, is such a disappointment. The Town of Delaware, though refusing to annul its recent resolution that in effect supports gas leasing, did agree to set up a commission that would supposedly, in the words of Sykes, attempt to get at “a lot of fact, not fiction” with regard to the advisability of gas drilling. But the letter to the governor says, “We have studied the facts and data.” Apparently, those who signed the letter already have all the facts they’re interested in knowing. So much for any attempt at genuine interaction with their constituency.

We think it would be interesting to see the Town of Delaware take a survey similar to the one just completed in Callicoon. We’re not sure that it would make any difference in what the town board does, any more than any changes are likely in Callicoon. But if not—well, the people who argue that elections are the most important polls of all do have one point. We would hope that any voters who see their representatives so signally fail to listen to their voices will remember that there is one poll public officials have to listen to, when election time comes around again next year.

[In a related vein, keep your eye on the dueling petitions in the Town of Cochecton. An anti-fracking petition has garnered 557 signatures, out of a town population of 1372. See story on page 2.]