Tuesday, November 26, 2002

No room at the Inn

Last week I had the pleasure of running out to a County Legislature meeting.

The Union-Sun & Journal is (believe it or not) preparing for the 2003 political calendar and I had to bring some biographical questionnaires to three current members of the legislature — Erck, Cole and Meal — so I could get to know them a little better.

I thought the meeting started at 7 o'clock, so I headed over a few minutes before that to say 'Hi' and give them my questionnaires. Unfortunately it actually began a few minutes before I got there and there was a line to get into the legislature chambers.

When I say it was standing room only, I mean it in the most literal form of the word. There were about 20 people in the lobby looking in towards the meeting and about another dozen standing up inside the legislative chambers.

No one outside could really see what was happening inside, but thanks to the miracle of electronics, we could hear. No one inside could see how many people filled the lobby outside, but thanks to the miracle of politics, they wouldn't listen even if we spoke.

Fortunately, the county had provided a few seats for a handful of people to sit and listen to the meeting.

Now stay with me here:

There are six benches inside the legislature's room, each fitting about eight people — for a total of about 48 spectators. These people fit into about a 585 square foot area off the legislature floor.

Each person gets 12.2 square feet — or thereabouts.

And that doesn't include the people standing in the aisles.

Add them in and its less than 10 square feet per person — still leaving about 20 people outside in the lobby.

On the legislature floor, meanwhile, there sit 19 legislators at large desks. The area they occupy is about 1,638 feet. Accompanying them are a couple of lawyers, department heads and whathaveyou. Lets say there's 30 people in this space.

That means each person gets 54.6 square feet.

It seems pretty simple to me that maybe there should be a little more space for the constituency and less space for the legislature and their cronies.

They could add another row of booths and extend the gallery a little to make room for people.

The could put in some extra chairs on meeting nights to accompany the overflow.

Or they could just cut the legislature to 10 and give the people half of the legislature floor.

We are, after all, supposed to have all of it.

On the topic of the legislature, it seems to me that its time for the annual scare tactic. You know the one, tell people that unless every service ever invented gets cut to the bare bone, taxes are going to skyrocket by 20 percent.

Oh, it's only 16 percent this year? Thank God.

Here's my solution: You know that "doomsday scenario" they keep talking about? The one where every service ever invented gets cut to the bare bone? Do it.

Does that include cutting the number of legislators?

Please, can it?