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Straight No Chaser: The Difference Between County Legislature and City Council

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston Al-Sarag


gloria_winston_al-sarag2It is that time of year again. Candidates will be vying for political office, flooding your mailbox with literature, knocking on your door, or begging for much-needed money, which may help them make a difference, whether it be in victory or defeat.

The game is the same; it is only the faces that change.

However, new faces will bring fresh ideas to the forefront. Incumbents will also be important, especially if they have stayed steady, served their constituents, and refused to be bought, bossed and sold, like Adam McFadden. Yeah, I said it. The political arena has a tendency to change folks, and, when they change, so does their message and movement. Think about it. Look around, and remember the media clowns whose concerns got silenced with the right title, and you will know exactly what I mean. There are too many sell-outs in Rochester that need to be GONE. But, I digress.

Through conversations with some who actually vote, I have discovered they may know personalities, but few really understand the difference in political offices. And, many don’t have a clue what a Monroe County Legislator actually does, and how that differs from a city councilperson. Many also do not really comprehend what a city school district commissioner does. Some just vote because they were asked to. And, those who don’t vote, of course, should never complain about anything.

Most states are represented by four levels of government, federal, state, county and city. Each state also has three parts, which usually work hand-in-hand. They are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches  of government. The executive, for the federal government, is the president; for the state, it is the governor; for the county, it is the county executive; and for the city, it is the mayor. This rule applies to all states, with the exception of the District of Columbia, which does not hold statehood, and is still considered a federal territory.

The legislative branch, for each level of government, consists of legislators who make the laws. When it comes to the federal government, that would be our Congress. When it comes to the state level, that would be the Assembly and state senators. When it comes to the county, it would be county legislators like Ernest Flager-Mitchell.

Judicial branches of governments are where the judges sit. Some are appointed, some are elected.

The following duties, and descriptions, were taken from their respective websites. I believe it is important for people to know the offices for which we are voting, and how some decisions, and laws that are made, impact our daily lives. The average voter likely votes for those who have put the most pressure on them, or for whose message has captured their attention. And, issues may not be as important to some as candidate’s personalities are to others. Here is some information regarding the different branches of government:

What is the Assembly?

The New York State Legislature, which is older than the U.S. Congress, was established as a law-making body in 1777. The Legislature is comprised of two houses, the Assembly and the Senate, both of which have co-equal powers. (Together they are called The Legislature) These two houses have the power to make all laws in all areas of the state, except those that have been reserved to the federal government, or to the people.

The first Assembly, under the Constitution, was composed of seventy members from the existing fourteen counties of the state. Since 1938, Assembly members have been elected in even years, for two year terms. Vacancies are filled by special election. The Assembly meets annually in unlimited session, and convenes in the Capitol in Albany, in the Assembly Chamber. To take a virtual tour of the Assembly Chamber, click here.

The New York State Senate is one of two houses in the New York State Legislature, and has members each elected to two-year terms. [1] There are no limits on the number of terms one may serve. The New York Constitution provides for a varying number of members in the Senate; the current membership is 63, [2] elected from single-member constituencies equal in population.

About the County Legislature, what is it?

There will be key races being run this year. Some candidate’s have been endorsed by the “party,” others have not, and will need the support of the community to win. However, you can only vote for the county legislature candidate representing the district in which you live.

I personally support Ernest Flager Mitchell (29th), Bobbi Mitchell (21st), Vince Felder (22nd), LaShay Harris (27th), John Lightfoot (25th), and Mitch Rowe (in the 23rd).

In the mid-1960s, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down an important decision, establishing the “one man-one vote” principle. Based on this historic action, in 1967, the 29-member Monroe County Legislature became this county’s chief lawmaking body, replacing the 43-member Board of Supervisors which had been in existence for 145 years.

The men and women who represent you in the Legislature are responsible for developing the laws and policies which affect the lives of over 710,000 residents, including over 230,000 in the city of Rochester.

Each legislator represents a district of approximately 25,000 people. Since most legislators are also employed in the private sector of our community, or own small businesses, many have two full-time jobs. However, as a citizen-representative, each legislator brings a unique perspective, and special expertise from his or her own profession and geographic area.

About Rochester City Council, what is it?

In the City Council races, I support Adam McFadden, Michael Patterson and, of course, LaShana Boose. LaShana did not get the nod of the “party,” but her opponent needs to FALL, and fall hard. There is no doubt in my mind that her opponent, Molly Clifford, along with her deceptive politics, is positioning herself to challenge my mayor. In my opinion, Molly is one of the status quo, who thinks her white privilege entitles her to whatever is on the table. However, she seeks entitlement for herself, not her community. The committee she represents, in the northwest area of the city, reportedly had members who had been perturbed they made her chair, after she allegedly deceived them into believing she had been supporting Lovely Warren for mayor. She was not. Several came to the office to complain about her deceptive practices. She’d sliced and diced Lovely as often as she could, and deserves political payback for her refusal to support our mayor, even after she earned the support of the party line. We need to circle the wagons around LaShana, who is more educated, and qualified than her opponent.

City Council is the nine-member legislative body for the city of Rochester, which works in conjunction with the mayor’s office to pass laws, and govern the city. City Council is comprised of five at-large members who represent the entire city, and four district members who are the voice for the South, Northwest, East, and Northeast sections of the city.

Responsibilities  of the Rochester Board of Education:

When it comes to the Rochester Board of Education, I personally support ONLY 4 candidates, namely, incumbent Malik Evans, Howard Eagle (yeah you heard it here first), Minister Lorenzo Williams, and Mia Hodgins. 

The Rochester Board of Education is a seven-member board, which has been elected by the citizens of Rochester to direct, and oversee, the operations of the school district. Board Commissioners serve four-year terms.

Among the duties of the Board of Education are the following:

Setting the strategic direction of the district through policy development and adoption;

Appointing the Superintendent of Schools;

Promoting an alliance of teachers, administrators, students, parents, citizens, government, and community resources;

Working to secure adequate resources for maximizing student learning;

Ensuring the wise use of community educational assets and resources;

Serving on board committees addressing the areas of Board Governance & Development, Community & Intergovernmental Relations, Finance & Resource Allocation, Policy Development & Review, and Excellence in Student Achievement;

Representing the best interests of the citizens of Rochester through effective leadership.

In addition, board members also serve as liaisons to specific schools. The board liaisons visit their assigned schools periodically, and serve as advocates to the full board on behalf of those schools.

I also support, and would like to encourage voters to vote for, Simeon Banister in Henrietta, and for Monroe County Executive, I support, and will vote for, Sandra Frankel, who has always been a consistent friend to my community.

Class dismissed.