Three Niagara County towns have local propositions on the ballot Tuesday to lengthen the terms of some town officials, and some organized opposition has surfaced in the Town of Lockport.
A new group called Taxpayers for Accountable Government has been posting signs around the Town of Lockport urging a vote against the proposition to give the supervisor a four-year term.
If the measure passes, incumbent Republican Marc R. Smith, who is unopposed for re-election, wouldn't have to face the voters again until 2011. He currently has a two-year term.
The new group includes Donna Pieszala, who sued the town unsuccessfully in January, asserting that Smith and the Town Board bumped her off the Zoning Board of Appeals. The court ruled her term had expired.
Pieszala that said TAG, as the taxpayer group likes to be called, consists of about 25 people and that its goal is to line up candidates to run against Smith and the incumbent board members in the 2009 election.
The Democrats failed to field a single candidate for town office this year.
"I think two-year terms hold our elected officials more accountable," said Pieszala, who also is president of the Newfane Board of Education.
Smith said he is the only elected official in the Town of Lockport without a four-year term.
"What happens when you have a two-year term is you're always campaigning, always fundraising," Smith said. "It lends itself to a situation where special interests have a bigger role."
In Wilson, there are propositions for longer terms for the supervisor and tax collector. Town Clerk Wanda Burrows said four-year terms will be given to Tuesday's winners if the propositions also pass.
In Pendleton, voters face four propositions, to replace two-year term with four-year intervals for the supervisor, town clerk, highway superintendent and tax collector.
Town Clerk Terry Pienta said the town clerk and tax collector propositions, if they pass, would take effect in January 2008.
"The other two wouldn't take effect until the next time they run," she said, in 2009. "The idea is to alternate the supervisor [term expiration] with the town clerk, so they wouldn't have two new ones."
Town of Lockport and Wilson voters defeated four-year terms for their supervisors in a 2002 referendum. That same year, voters in Lewiston and Royalton also rejected the four-year plan.
Four-year supervisor terms were approved in Cambria in 1998 and Hartland in 1999. The Town of Niagara supervisor has long had a four-year term.
Smith said Lockport voters five years ago might have thought things were becoming a bit too cozy because a practice had arisen of officeholders resigning before their terms had expired, allowing the all-Republican Town Board to appoint their successors and present them as incumbents at the next election, usually unopposed.
"I think there was an atmosphere in the Town of Lockport at the time where there were a lot of appointments being made," Smith said. "I think the voters felt they weren't getting a say. I have let it be known that I don't want political appointments. My opinion is, let 'em run."
He also said members of other parties are welcome. Former Local 686, United Auto Workers, President Paul Siejak, a member of the Working Families Party, is on the GOP ticket for Town Board this year, and Smith chose David R. Kinyon, a Democrat, for a Planning Board seat.