Ignoring the contentious and sometimes blatantly partisan rage in national politics, local governments in the Twin Tiers are getting to work toward honest government, noted Trailblazers PAC founder Leslie Danks Burke today. Places like Big Flats, NY, Blossburg, PA, and Olean, NY are stepping up to give regular voters better access to government decision making.
“No level of government is closer to the voters than local town and city governments,” said Danks Burke. “In every village across our counties, real citizen legislators meet regularly to make their communities better. More and more, these leaders see that a key part of governing is including their neighbors in the conversation about what government is doing.”
Trailblazers PAC supports candidates for local office in New York and Pennsylvania who take action for transparent government in their campaign finances and when they are in office.
“We visit a couple communities every month around New York and Pennsylvania to hold well-attended local government workshops, and it’s been wonderful to find towns and villages who are getting things right,” said Danks Burke. “As much as citizens are frustrated with decision-making in Albany and Washington, we’re seeing new and real connection among voters right in our home towns.”
The Chemung County Town of Big Flats regularly sets up a huge sign to let residents know about upcoming board meetings, and its active website gives voters easy access to upcoming projects, the Town Budget and recent audits of Town spending. In Blossburg, PA, a Borough-wide community survey discovered that residents wanted a coffee shop. A couple years later, the downtown now boasts a bustling coffee shop and a recently-refurbished old movie theater, where the proprietors are proud to have landed the current hit, “Wonder Woman.”
Blossburg’s website advertises upcoming meetings and gives ready access to meeting minutes. Newly-elected Village of Homer, NY, Mayor Hal McCabe (who was endorsed and supported by Trailblazers PAC in a surprising upset victory in March), has overhauled the notice and reporting process for regular and open Village Board meetings, even including videotapes of all Village Board meetings posted online to give all residents access at their convenience.
Olean, NY Town Board members, following the recommendation of NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, for the first time voted to maintain a fund balance in their budget, a common practice that had previously occurred without any votes being taken.
“These small steps don’t cost taxpayers anything extra, but they make a big difference in connecting citizens to democracy,” said Danks Burke. “Voters are the most important people in our system of government, and that’s why Trailblazers PAC will keep working with local citizens to build tools to take back our democracy, starting in the place that affects us most, and that we know best – our own home towns.”