Gloversville Mayor Dayton King has a point when he says the City Council needs a voice on the Fulton County Board of Supervisors.
But in calling for the city’s six county supervisors to be replaced with a single representative of the City Council, specifically the city councilman-at-large, Mayor King is missing the whole point of having a county government and ignoring the pitfalls of assigning one city official to serve at the county level.
One major flaw with his plan to replace all six supervisors with one supervisor representing the city board is that city officials and county officials have different obligations, even those from the same community.
County supervisors don’t just represent their own communities. They also represent the county as a whole. Their obligation is to look out for the greater geographic area as well as their own city. In some cases those obligations might conflict – as they apparently did when some Gloversville county supervisors departed from the wishes of the City Council on a regional land bank.
County supervisors recognized then that they had an obligation to weigh the interests of county residents along with the interests of the City Council, and some voted a different way.
It’s the same situation you have with representatives in Congress or the state Legislature. Yes, state legislators and congressmen represent their individual districts. But they also represent the interests of all state residents and, when considering Congress, the additional interests of the entire country. They can’t think or act exclusively in a local bubble.
Then there are the practical considerations of having one individual at the county level representing the city. Six supervisors can serve on multiple committees more easily and more effectively than a single person could. That ensures the city gets greater input and influence over the decisions made in those committees. One person simply couldn’t do as effective a job trying to wear all those hats.
And finally, if the councilman-at-large is designated as the city’s sole representative on the county board, what’s to prevent the individual from using political considerations or just differences of opinion to cast the city’s only vote at the county against the interests of the City Council? Would the city’s supervisor be legally obligated to reflect the city board’s wishes, or would he have independence to vote as he saw fit?
Maybe one solution is changing the law so that one of the city’s six supervisors also serves on the City Council. That way, the council is ensured a voice on the county board as well as a vote.
The idea of having a one-to-one relationship between the city and county boards is reasonable and maybe even desirable.
But on a political and practical level, the idea of replacing the city’s six county supervisors with a single representative from the City Council is a non-starter.