Why a Ward System for Ramapo?
Wards give each of Ramapo’s diverse communities their own voice in the town hall, to represent their own interests.
“Shall the ward system be established for the election of councilmen in Ramapo?”
The Ward System is the right solution for a town that is diverse; a town comprised of many areas, having communities composed of residents that have differing needs and wishes. Ramapo is a diverse town. There are many very different communities within Ramapo, each with their own needs, wishes and concerns.
The people of Ramapo have already decided that a one size fits all government is not best for them; this is reflected by the large number of villages that are incorporated in the town. While village formations address certain aspects of local government, village residents are still part of the town, pay town taxes and receive town services; the formation of villages does not relate at all to how village residents are represented at the town level. The Ward System of town government is extremely well suited to improve the representation of all residents in the governing of the town.
- Outside of Long Island, the Town of Ramapo has the largest population in any town in New York; Ramapo ranks 8th in population state wide.
- The Town of Ramapo has very diverse and specific communities with different needs and interests.
- Outside of Nassau County, the Town of Ramapo has the largest number of villages in New York; Ramapo ranks 4th in the number of incorporated villages state wide.
- The Town of Ramapo has a large population of residents feel disenfranchised by the existing town government.
- The Town is so large that the costs and time necessary to even run for town board are prohibitive to the vast majority of the residents in the town leaving those who run highly dependent on and beholden to special interest groups.
The ward system will address the situation in the Town of Ramapo by:
- Breaking down the voting districts of Town of Ramapo into smaller sections.
- Making it easier for local residents to run for office because they only need to campaign in their own neighborhood and be elected by their own friends and neighbors who are familiar with them.
- Electing dedicated representatives on the town board who can better represent the specific needs and opinions of their constituents.
- Improving communications between the Town Board and the residents because each elected official can speak more openly about what is happening in the town without fearing losing the support of residents in other wards.
- Allowing for diverse opinions to be considered in Town Board meetings and help eliminate the rubber stamping that comes from a less diverse board.
- Reducing the probability of majority and super majority vote without real consideration and consensus.
- Reducing the power of special interest groups and large campaign contributors in the governance of the town.
Of the 932 towns in the state of New York, 13 towns have already chosen to use the Ward System to elect their town board. While that is a small percentage overall, the number of towns that are similar to the Town of Ramapo that use the Ward System is very high and when you look at the situation closely you can be confident that changing to the Ward System is the correct solution for the Town of Ramapo.
Most towns in New York have significantly smaller population and tend to be homogeneous; there is no significant difference between the needs of the people in one part of the town vs. another. For towns like those, the At Large System makes sense; for Ramapo when it was founded in 1791, staying with an At Large System made sense; but, that is not the nature of Ramapo in 2014. The At Large System no longer best serves the diverse needs of the people of Ramapo today; the Ward System will.
The number of villages that have incorporated within a town is a good indication that a town is made of many communities, each with needs, wishes and concerns that do not align well with a one-size-fits-all government at the town level. Incorporated villages allow the local community to make their own decisions on many important local matters such as zoning and planning. Ramapo has 12 incorporated villages within its borders; there are only 19 in all of Rockland. In fact, Ramapo has more incorporated villages than any other town in New York outside of Nassau County. Just as incorporated villages give each community a direct say in local government, wards similarly ensure that each community has a dedicated voice to represent it in town government.
It is hard for a single council member to represent many different and often competing viewpoints. It is much more effective when a council member can represent the more consistent viewpoints of a smaller community – his or her neighbors.
Ramapo has over 60,000 registered voters. The cost and effort of running for the town board is enormous and discourages rather than encourages resident involvement. Reducing the number of people who will vote for each representative makes it easier and less costly for them to meet the voters and enable deeper more meaningful conversations.
The Ramapo Town Board is currently 4 council members and a supervisor. In order to gain control over an existing bad board all 3 seats must be won in any given election. Existing elections are at large so the same majority controls all seats. Currently a single party or a single bloc can control the board and maintain control of the board making it easier for important town decisions to be made by small coordinated groups of board member and communication about what the board is working on or contemplating can be kept secret.
Mostly importantly, a ward system increases the probability that we won’t have a board in its totality beholden to any one group, developer or political party.