It was a typical new year assignment for OBSERVER staff writer Greg Fox: cover the oath of office for the new board members in the town of Pomfret.
On his return to Dunkirk to write up the story, Fox was in disbelief. As we all know, new board member Christopher Schaeffer sported some unusual headwear - a colander. Noting he was a minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, he told our reporter: "It's just a statement about religious freedom. It's a religion without any dogma."
Once we put together the Jan. 3 article regarding the oath with the unusual attire, many area residents and readers reacted. Some made light of it. Some were insulted by it.
Pomfret Town Board member Christopher Schaeffer is making headlines for headwear.
But Schaeffer's appearance, on an otherwise slow news day, has caught worldwide attention. In the past week, the story has been picked up by newspapers and web sites including the New York Daily News, the Huffington Post, USA Today, multiple media outlets in England and a number of religious blogs.
Even the church's website features the story on its home page and notes, "I imagine Council member Schaeffer is getting a lot of heat because of the news coverage," writes Bobby Henderson, the founder of the group. "Some people will see it as obnoxious or a sign that he's not taking the oath of office seriously. But I am completely confident that Schaeffer will distinguish himself as a Council member of the highest caliber"
In his run for Town Board, Schaeffer did not mention a religious affiliation in the announcement published by this newspaper and also was a no-show to the debate held by the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters. But Schaeffer does have a history of service to the town of Stockton, Chautauqua County 4-H, Literacy Volunteers and the Adams Art Gallery.
He also unsuccessfully ran in the 2008 election against state Sen. Catharine Young as "just a working guy who's tired of paying the second-highest taxes in the country.''
That message of taxes still rings true today. And, for those judging representation based on beliefs and actions, let's not forget those local, state and national elected officials who are tied to crime and harassment. They still sit on boards and make decisions affecting constituents despite potential wrongdoing.
If those illegal actions and charges are acceptable to voters and the public, then a colander seems harmless.
We have noted in this corner and in our OBSERVER's View of the need to merge schools and reduce local government.
While many agree with this concept, a fear of losing an identity or that small bit of control often is too much of a risk for those who oppose consolidation. But state Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again making a push for government to reduce. Here is what he said Wednesday during his 2014 State of the State address: "So why are our property taxes so high? Because we have too many local governments and we've had them for too long. Ten thousand five hundred local governments. ... We have a proliferation of government that is exceedingly expensive and costly."
Area leaders, you are no longer off Albany's radar.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to email@example.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.