Ridgeway, Shelby push ‘Dissolution Innuendo,’ not facts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 April 2014 at 12:00 am


MEDINA – They say they are the source for facts on proposed dissolution of the Village of Medina because Medina Mayor Andrew Meier and his hand-picked committee have skewered the details in a Dissolution Plan.

The Town Boards of Ridgeway and Shelby say they offer the “facts” on the dissolution, yet they don’t say how the details are being “skewered.” They allege impropriety from Meier and a Dissolution Committee, but don’t offer any “facts” to back up the claims.

The two Towns Boards have stepped up their efforts to undermine Meier, accusing him of mismanaging the finances of the village. There is nothing to back up this claim. No report from the comptroller’s office. No audit. They have nothing specific, but the two Town Boards have started a smear campaign, questioning Meier’s integrity and competence.

I don’t think anyone expected officials from the two towns to readily embrace the dissolution of the village. For nearly 200 years the village has paid the lion’s share of the bills and provided the bulk of the services in the Medina community. Village residents have a much bigger tax bill than their neighbors outside the village boundaries. Many of the village services – fire, ambulance and police – often go outside village boundaries for services on the village’s dime.

The village tax base has shrunk in recent years. The houses are falling in value while the assessments grow outside the village in the two towns. Moving outside the village can save a homeowner about $1,000 in taxes each year. That is quite an incentive to leave.

Meier is 34 years old. He doesn’t see how the village can prosper long-term with such a disparity between the village tax rate and the rate for those outside the village, especially when the latter enjoy many of the village services without paying towards them.

Village residents not only pay village taxes but they also get taxed by the town. It’s a tough deal for the village residents. A fair-minded person would question the disparity in taxes and should want to do something about it.

Meier has pushed the issue. Other communities have done consolidation and shared services studies, but they seldom go anywhere. It’s a lot of work coming up with a plan. You’re going to anger constituencies. You, unfortunately, will pay a price. That, sadly, is a fact and the two Town Boards are making sure of that in Medina.

They have hired a PR consultant and a press release that went out Sunday felt like an attack on Meier. He was the only one singled out by name despite several people working on the dissolution plan.

None of Town Board members will speak to the media, including the two town supervisors, Skip Draper in Shelby and Brian Napoli of Ridgeway.

You can submit them questions through a hotline or Facebook page. Those questions won’t be seen by the public and the “Towns” will respond on Facebook or they will issue a press release to selected media members. I was told Orleans Hub is on the list, but our repeated requests for a press release went nowhere. Another reporter forwarded it to me on Monday.

I had no idea the Orleans County press corps struck such fear in the hearts of the two Town Boards. Jim Krencik from The Daily News in Batavia, Howie Balaban from The Journal-Register in Medina, and I have the two Town Boards taking what may be an unprecedented step in the history of our democracy. They will not talk to reporters.

Everything must be funneled through a PR consultant. They will take residents’ questions through a Facebook message or you can leave a message on a hotline.

I have been a reporter in Orleans County for 18 years. Not everyone likes me, but I think everyone tolerates me, even when they don’t like questions. Draper and Napoli are both veterans in their positions and they should know answering an occasional phone call from a reporter is part of the territory.

President Barack Obama will take reporters’ questions, and he’ll do it live in front of the cameras. Even Vladimir Putin talks to reporters in Russia.

But the Town Boards in Shelby and Ridgeway desperately want to control the message, even if it means spreading innuendo.

The two towns have a “Dissolution Facts” Facebook page that is run by an anonymous “Towns.” No name of a town official is credited with any of the comments that have pointed criticism of the dissolution plan approved by a committee last Thursday.

I have covered some scandals and everyone who had a fall from grace at least stood before the cameras and public and answered some painful and embarrassing questions. They didn’t shrink and hide. I give them credit for “facing the music” in a difficult situation.

I really don’t understand the Ridgeway and Shelby stance. Why hide behind an anonymous Facebook page or a PR consultant?

These are hardly embarrassing questions: What do you think of the dissolution plan? How might it be improved? The village residents are also town residents – how will you serve them?

The increase in taxes for outside-village residents can likely be offset if the two towns merge. Will you work towards a merger or cost savings with Ridgeway/Shelby? If no, then why not?