First of all, I was born in Brockport many years ago at Lakeside Memorial Hospital over on West Avenue. I went to High School there and I still have plenty of family and friends who live in this village. My name is Ove Overmyer—and I’m sure most residents of the area will recognize my family name—we have been living in this village for more than four generations.
I mention my personal history because I want to squash any notion that I don’t have a horse in this race—in fact, I do and so do you no matter where you live in this country. Anytime there is a threat to one’s quality of life, folks need to speak up and take a stand. This is because it’s not just a fight for Brockport residents to keep their village whole-- this is about something much much greater.
This fight over village dissolution is really an ideological attack on the existence of government itself. I believe government is a positive social force and a civil contract that attempts to improve people's lives and hold everyone accountable. Government gets a bad rap and I'm here to defend it.
By virtue of full disclosure, I must also state that I work for a union who represents the DPW workers who are employed by the Village of Brockport. That being said, this makes my resolve all the more meaningful.
I personally consider putting a vote to village dissolution an act that threatens our personal safety and financial security—and it will inevitably diminish our quality of life. While I know some people think local governments are dysfunctional, I respectfully disagree. After careful consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding this vote, I’m pretty sure most rational folks will come to same conclusion that I have—residents will have a better quality of life if they vote no on May 24.
Dissolution is devoid of any civic meaning
If you believe the landlords, the dissolution argument, the conservative and libertarian arguments, then you probably believe Americans are cast as victims of a vast corrupt political system. As the narrative goes, we are just taxpayers bearing up under the obligation to pay into federal, state and local coffers. Some are stoic in the face of the inevitability of “death and taxes,” while others burn with resentment like the old Tea Party folks.
Here is the problem. What is missing from this picture is any sense of a larger meaning in the act of paying taxes in the first place. Most other things that require effort and sacrifice-- family, service, charity, and volunteerism-- have virtuous or at least redeeming value associated with them. That meaning helps us face life’s challenges with a larger sense of purpose that make these acts worth the investment.
When we lose sight of this, taxes and government are seen as merely depriving us of our individual property. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as government stewards of common good, as citizen managers of public systems and structures that secure the village, city, state and country we live in, then taxes are our contribution to something bigger than our individual selves.
The stories we hear about government dissolution and not paying taxes reflect a chronic disconnection from our role as citizens; they are devoid of any civic meaning. The real meaning of local government and taxes pays for the things that underpin our public life and connect us to one another through our villages, our communities, our states and our country.
The fact remains, no one can predict what will happen if the village dissolves. Every village dissolution process is different—and yields unintended consequences every time. To compare other jurisdictions that have dissolved to what would happen in Brockport is like comparing apples to oranges.
We all need to be telling a new and meaningful story about the positive aspects of government and taxes that celebrate the concrete opportunity it offers we the people.
If voters really want to know what motivates those who support dissolution, all you have to do is think of revenge and greed. It’s no secret the dissolutionists inordinately own most of the real estate rental property in the village and want to stick their finger in the eye of village government. After all, village officials are the only stop-gap measure in preserving property values and the historic landmarks that dot each village street.
The landlords selfishly think by eliminating village government, code enforcement and public safety officers, it will remove all barriers to increasing their industry profit margin—all at their neighbor’s expense. This is really about greed folks—plain and simple.
As it is, this landlord group continues to thumb their nose at their neighbors as they destroy the housing stock in one of New York State’s most historically valuable communities. It would be a travesty if voters allow them to get away with it.
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