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New majority flexes muscles on sore subjects

The Tonawanda Town Board's new Democratic majority displayed its political power Monday, proposing to undo the rulings of last year's Republican majority by reviving resolutions to reduce the size of the council and set term limits.

The board voted, 6-1, to hold public hearings Feb. 27 on downsizing the board from six members to four and establishing term limits for council members and the supervisor, two resolutions that failed last year.

In addition, a hearing will be held to repeal the Citizens Commission on Local Government, which was created by Republicans to look at the two resolutions and other issues.

If the Democrats, who have a 5-2 majority, get their way, there will be three-term limit for council members and the supervisor. Reducing the size of the board would require voter approval in a referendum.

Town Supervisor Ronald H. Moline, a Republican who voted against holding hearings on all three resolutions, described the measures as "slash-and-burn politics" and a "rush to judgment."

But Democratic Councilman John J. Flynn said the issues are not new and residents are familiar with them. In fact, the public has been aware and supportive since 2003 when the Democrats ran successfully on the campaign agenda that promised to reduce the size of the council and impose term limits, Flynn said. The three recently elected Democrats also included the same plans to reshape the government in their campaigns.

But Moline said: "All three are driven by a political agenda. [Flynn] confirmed that by mentioning political campaigns."

Last year, Moline called for the creation of the commission, and it was approved unanimously in May.

"The intent was to give citizens an opportunity to evaluate any propositions that would significantly change the role of town government," he said, maintaining that downsizing the council and setting term limits need to be reviewed by the commission. GOP Councilman John J. Donnelly, who voted for the hearings, agreed with Moline, saying the commission serves a purpose.

But Councilman Joseph H. Emminger Sr., the Democrat who proposed abolishing the commission, said the Town Board should be responsible for reviewing and deciding such issues. "We got elected to make decisions, not pass the buck to citizens," Emminger said.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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