The Wales Town Board would like to regain its home rule power it feels has been taken away for the last two years during the pandemic.
A resolution passed at the most recent board meeting states that the board asserts its power as a governing board to other branches of government that overuse executive orders.
Board Member Donald Butcher asked for the resolution to be drafted.
“The county and the state are slowly taking away our powers,” Butcher said in a previous interview. “When do these executive orders end? When do we take control of our town? I don’t want to debate if there are mandates or laws, I am not saying we should not comply, but we are tired of it and it needs to be looked at and addressed.”
One of the recent mandates that has caused an abundance of concern has been reinstating the mask mandate. County Executive Mark Poloncarz instituted a second countywide mask mandate on Nov. 22, 2021, following an increase in coronavirus cases. A few weeks later, on Dec. 10, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a mask mandate across the state. Both Poloncarz and Hochul were able to institute these policies under executive privilege, which went into effect for each of their offices at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The resolution in Wales says that executive orders and mandates ignore the responsibility of elected officials from the town boards, and that town residents are denied the use of the voices that their elected officials provide them.
“We respectfully ask that the county executive and state governor cease and desist what may be seen as arbitrary and capricious orders and return authority to the duly elected officials of the Town of Wales,” the resolution states. “While it may seem a ‘one size fits all’ mandate is warranted, no one can justly make that decision without the input of those affected by it. Local elected officials know their constituents and listen to them. They know better than some county executive or governor who has never been to a town meeting.”
The resolution passed with a vote of four to one. Board Member Kyle Barry was the opposing vote, but he declined to comment on why he voted the way he did.
The state lifted the mandate two days after the resolution was passed, saying that masking is now optional for counties, local governments and businesses. Erie County followed the state’s lead.
A mask mandate is still in place for schools, shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, and transportation facilities such as airports, subways and bus stations.
The mandate regarding masking in schools will be reviewed in March.