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Owasco Lake watershed rules and regulations meeting

Members of the public attend a meeting about updating the Owasco Lake watershed rules and regulations at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES in June.

When it comes to protecting the Owasco Lake watershed, there are several overlapping entities — scientists, municipal governments and grass-roots groups of citizens — working on solutions. We're glad to see so many people taking an interest, but since the process for affecting change is often going to involve legislative approval, we believe that elected officials are the ones who ultimately need to take responsibility.

During a visit to Auburn this week, state Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said that instead of elected officials, he would rather see soil and water conservation districts become empowered to take the lead on watershed regulations.

We agree that people with water conservation education and specialized training are the experts we should rely on in making choices about what to do. But those people are being funded with public dollars, so there needs to be oversight in place that's directly accountable to local residents.

We think it's a bit too cynical for Ball to suggest that "a nice group of people who just got elected" shouldn't have a significant part to play. Taxpayers don't get to decide who is running things at soil and water, their elected representatives do. But taxpayers get to choose who those elected representatives are.

Government should, of course, utilize the experts and listen to them, but the people in public office are ultimately responsible for getting things done. At the end of the day, somebody needs to be held accountable for progress — or lack thereof — so if those people fail, the voters have the option of finding others to take over the work.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.