One of us

At the Monday, March 28, Village of Ballston Spa board meeting trustee Donna Thomas informed the board of her resignation, effective almost immediately. After 19 years on the board a change of address put her 75 feet over the village line, making her ineligible to serve. “The law is the law,” she said.
Thomas originally ran for a seat on the board in 1992 after finding the board unresponsive to concerns she had about a dangerous tree on her property. It’s a familiar story to anyone who covers, or even pays attention to, local politics: a citizen fails to get government action on a personal concern and decides to get involved. We have little doubt if we surveyed the members of all of our local town boards we would find similar stories throughout.
And that, we believe, is the real foundation of our democracy. Often we think of politics in terms of the big issues- national questions dominating print and the airwaves and they seem to overwhelm the discussion. But the old mantra “all politics is local” still holds true. It is the involvement of citizens like Thomas in their local government, and the local and even personal concerns that form their agenda, that matter the most.
At the same board meeting where Thomas offered her resignation, Mayor John Romano unveiled the village’s proposed 2011-2012 budget. Despite increased liabilities the budget, for the second straight year, includes no tax increase. Instead, a full-time position will go unfilled and certain other cost-saving measures will be employed, including a wage freeze for the mayor and trustees and a modest 3 percent increase for full-time village staff.

Just as with our school district, much of the increased liabilities involve pensions, and just as with the school district, the administration has responded by freezing their own pay in order to be able to afford the unavoidable payouts they’re obligated to make. We applaud the mayor and the board for managing to hold the line in these challenging times, just as we have commended Superintendent Dragone and the school board for the same thing in the past. We continue to do so.
But we as a community must also face up to some of the realities outside simple numbers on a balance sheet. In the case of the school district, increased liabilities and decreasing revenue will likely mean the loss of a job for maybe 30 of our friends and neighbors and the wholesale elimination of some programs. For the village, the trustee’s freeze and avoidance of a tax increase means a delay in the purchase of large equipment, something the village may need after such a hard winter. There is a cost to cost savings, and we can only hope that cost doesn’t include things like less effective classrooms and less drivable roads.
The decisions about where to spend and where to cut, when to tax and when not to, are fortunately in our hands. People like Donna Thomas make those calls after asking for our vote, and since they live as we live, where we live, they both understand our concerns and pay the same price to see our needs answered. In the 213 years the Ballston Journal has proudly covered the news in our community the story has been repeated over and over. Our archives are full of stories about citizens who have stepped up and taken a hand in the affairs of our community. As General Horatio King stated at the Town of Ballston Centennial Celebration in 1907, “Civic pride is the basis of good government.” That’s as true today as it was back then.
We don’t know yet who will take their turn and finish out the last two years of Thomas’s term. We do know they will be one of us. And just like Thomas, and Mayor Romano, and Superintendent Dragone, and all the others who serve us in local government, we can expect–indeed, have the right to expect–they will listen to what we have to say. And then do the right thing.


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