The Cayuga County Legislature plans to meet three times in the next three weeks — and that's a great thing, because there is a lot of work to be done. But legislators should use September to take care of urgent needs rather than get bogged down debating long-term potentialities.
Here's some of what's on the table: The Emergency Management Office has been without full-time management since a wave of resignations in January; the Department of Public Works is under the supervision of interim leadership following the resignation of the director earlier this month; and the county has been without a chief administrator since the Legislature fired the person who was doing that job back in May.
Additionally, legislators plan to discuss long-term capital planning and look into the possibly of scrapping the merger of departments under the DPW, undoing the Legislature's committee structure, and moving away from the administrator form of government.
It's a good move to schedule extra meetings for these important public discussions, because things can't be allowed to drag on with so much uncertainty. Capital planning is essential, and county departments need stability so that their work can be effectively performed.
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And while it's fine to discuss the pros and cons of making wholesale changes in the way the Legislature operates, canceling the DPW consolidation, eliminating legislative committees, and reconsidering the administrator position, those agenda items can simmer for the time being.
Urgent needs should come first. The Emergency Management Office and the Department of Public Works need full-time directors, and the county should be looking for an interim administrator to help steer the ship and work on next year's budget. Key to the last item will be hiring someone without any agenda other than providing experienced-based expertise. Without that piece, there’s high risk that any restructuring efforts will get bogged down in tribal politics.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.