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Amherst should let downsizing take effect before deciding whether to change it

The Amherst Town Board should exercise a little more patience when it comes to allowing the downsizing process to take effect.

Residents voted overwhelmingly in a referendum three years ago to decrease the size of the Town Board from seven members to five. Now board members have turned their backs on that decision and scheduled another referendum for June 11, hoping voters will now agree to keep the board at the interim size of six members.

As downsizing activist Kevin Gaughan said, “This is a referendum no Amherst voters asked for,” adding, “and it’s entirely politician-initiated.”

Because of the referendum, the board downsized from seven members to six – five council members and the supervisor – and is scheduled to go to five members in January 2014. The people called for downsizing in 2010, and yet, to the Town Board, the number of board members remains an issue.

Amherst leaders have cited everything from the size of the town to the workload of each council member in defending the current six-member board. Some members of the board want the revote because they somehow believe that the same people who voted three years ago to downsize to five members will now see the light and want the board to stay at six members.

There should be no do-overs because politicians divined that people must have, by now, had a change of heart. The voters have spoken on the issue, and they should have a chance to see the results of their downsizing vote before further action is taken.

Board members may be concerned that the downsizing trend could go even further. State law allows for citizens to petition for another downsizing vote, but only if the board is at five members.

On this point, the opponents of further downsizing are right. Going from six to just three board members in a city-size town makes no sense. But neither does keeping six board members, because it sets up the possibility of tie votes. Right now that isn’t much of a problem because the board is able to reach agreement on major issues, but that may not last.

The Town Board should decrease to five members, as already decided. Residents shouldn’t have to keep revoting until they reach a decision acceptable to the board.