I agree totally with Linda Leavitt’s letter (“Thoughtful editorial on Senate proposal hit the mark,” June 14) objecting to the proposed law to allow townwide voting on Edgemont’s incorporation. The six villages are separate from the Greenburgh government, and its residents have no skin in that game. Abinanti’s proposed law has no serious purpose, other than to make sure that Edgemont cannot become a village.
Most village residents have no idea whatsoever about the government and politics of unincorporated Greenburgh. They can be roused only when there is a threat to the villages. Otherwise they take little or no interest.
Village residents can vote for the unincorporated Greenburgh government because the New York State Constitution permits only three kinds of governmental units — a city, a town and an Indian reservation. That worked well when the areas outside of cities were largely rural. But by the mid-19th century there were population clusters in the rural areas, and the New York Legislature enacted the Village Law, which provided for villages, but required them to be a part of a town, so as to comply with the Constitution.
Village residents in those early days were taxed for all the services that the town government provided, exactly the same as town residents. As village governments started providing municipal services directly to their residents, the Legislature enacted laws that relieved village residents of town taxes for the services that the villages, and not the town, provided. The Finneran Law relieved village residents of the costs for maintaining the town’s recreational programs, since villages provided their own programs. Most, but not all, of the town services are no longer charged to village residents.
The solution is to formalize the separateness between the town and the villages. Village residents should not vote for the town government, which has almost no impact on their lives. If there are town services that villages would like to have they can be bought by contract. That is how things are already working to some extent, as in the town’s use of some village fire departments to service areas of the town that are much closer to a village fire department. But this separation would require a change in the law that requires villages to be part of a town.
I agree with Linda that eliminating the right of village residents to vote for town government officials would benefit the town. Let those who are actually governed by town officials vote for them. Town residents, unlike village residents, know what town officials are doing, and town residents are entitled to judge them. Using the generally uninformed village residents as an electoral cushion does not make for the best government.
As I write this, there is also a proposed law that would impose a moratorium on village incorporation, during which a commission would study the issue. I think this is a good idea. I am a believer in self-determination. I am also concerned about a wealthy enclave seeking to become independent and leaving the rest of the town to deal with the consequences.