Memorial Day 2012 is now in our rear view mirror. The day has passed, but aptly is not out of sight in our hearts, minds and vision. Nor should it be. As we approach Independence Day, it is appropriate to view the issue of village of Saranac Lake police response through the prism these two holidays provides.
First, let us agree quite plainly that no police officer should ever be in danger due to politics. Nor should they be expected to warm the bench when another officer is in danger. In the case of officer safety, mutual aid must be seamless and immediate. Therefore, universal mutual aid to officers in distress should be codified through state legislation. It’s important to note that according to The Valley News, Mayor Rabideau correctly stated that there are appropriate exceptions such as extreme danger and/or humane reasons. Our police officers are amazing, and just want to do their job. Let’s take them right out of the political equation, and protect them so they can protect us. Let’s give our local communities the backup they need too, by making mutual aid in extreme circumstances such as officer safety, a State policy. But let’s not confuse this with routine police work.
Second, we must honor our most basic American tenets, one of which is that we abhor taxation without representation. In the case of Saranac Lake, we have a village that pays hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to taxing entities that provide little to no services in return. Yet that same village provides services such as basic law enforcement to those taxing entities without compensation. It’s completely backwards.
We fought for Independence from Britain over this very issue. We won that war. Then we declared war on Britain in 1812 because they were abusing us again. In that case they were harassing our ships and pressing Americans and British ex patriots into military service to the Crown. We won that war as well. As with more recent wars, the fallen heroes of our earliest wars gave everything for our freedom too.
Do we somehow now imagine that it wasn’t OK for Britain to tax us without representation or press our sailors into service to the Crown, but it’s OK if we tax each other without representation or expect police service for free?
Let’s be fair. The towns that tax the village of Saranac Lake are in a tough spot. Fifty percent or more of their budget is caused by unfunded state mandates. The problem is broken at the state level. But is it correct to tax anyone or anything just because we can? Where does that end? Taxes are necessary for legitimate government activity, but in America they should never be levied without getting a legitimate service in return!
There have been a plethora of politicians who have held hearings about the problem. Elected officials at every level acknowledging the problem is crippling their ability to govern effectively. However, once the hearings are over, nothing really changes.
Third, as a minimum the village of Saranac Lake should either receive reimbursement for its police response to neighboring municipalities. This should be in the form of offsets to its tax bill, or direct payment for those services when rendered outside village municipal bounds.
Fourth, the state must then pass significant mandate reform legislation, starting with an all-out assault on the multi-billion dollar problem of Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse. This should be followed in short order by an amendment to our state constitution outlawing unfunded mandates. We cannot continue to pay lip service to this problem.
Finally, we must challenge the political status quo. One certain way to fix this problem is by making Saranac Lake a city. I know there is little political will for this amongst several of the region’s long-time politicians, but that, too, can be changed.
Dave Kimmel is a Cadyville businessman. He is running for member of the Assembly in the 115th Assembly District which includes Clinton and Franklin County as well as the towns of Brasher, Lawrence, Hopkinton, and Piercefield in St. Lawrence County.