Drastic Measures Needed During Drastic Times

William T. Stachowski

November 15, 2005

Erie County is in the midst of a financial crisis that will have dramatic fiscal ramifications for many years if the status quo continues in Erie County. For all intent and purpose, The Erie County Legislature has abdicated its responsibilities to protect taxpayers from budgetary gimmicks and mismanagement, and have been willing over the past several years, to allow the county to go deeper and deeper into debt. This was the reason for the creation of the Erie County Fiscal Authority in the Spring of 2005 and why I am proposing that we do away with the Erie County Legislature and replace it with a Board of Supervisors form of county government. It is time that the residents of Erie County empower themselves to bring back responsible budgets, ensure that county services currently provided are saved, and bring back the trust that our residents deserve and expect.

Make no bones about it, we must take a realistic look at how county government works as it relates to taxes, criminal justice services and those social services that are currently provided to the residents of Erie County. It is obvious to all that Erie County is currently in an a abysmal state of affairs and that our residents are frustrated, disenfranchised, angry and embarrassed at its current demise. However, as with most disasters, we have the ability to reinvent and improve our democratic institutions, especially at the county-level, and there is no better time than now.

New ideas to address the current dysfunctional county form of government is imperative and I am proposing the elimination of the Erie County Legislature and replacing it with a Board of Supervisors form of government. In many counties throughout New York State, the county legislature is the Board of Supervisors, composed of town and city supervisors of its constituent towns and cities. In most of these counties, each supervisor's vote is weighted in accordance with the town's population in order to abide by the principal of "one person, one vote." By implementing a Board of Supervisors form of county government, we literally will eliminate an entire layer of bureaucracy, which will save millions of taxpayers dollars, your taxpayer dollars, and immediately and seamlessly provide those critical needed social service programs and criminal justice initiatives that you depend on everyday.

There will no doubt be a furious attack on this proposal, but this is to be expected. Change can be very difficult, especially when it comes to the politically motivated and an entrenched self-serving bureaucracy. However, all that we have to do is look at what has transpired over the past several years to see that something drastic must be done to protect Erie County taxpayers from the severe legislative gridlock and gross financial mismanagement. My proposal is just that--a proposal. It is critically important to discuss, deliberate, and embrace ideas that are outside the normal condition. Erie County is not an island onto its own. Local governments across our state, as well as we in the State Legislature, must also embrace alternative ideas and procedures to improve our ability to be more responsive to those we represent. By not embracing new ideas and embracing the status quo we allow ourselves to become complacent and irrelevant, and that would be disastrous for us all.

I firmly believe that we can, and must, do whatever we can to get Erie County back on the road to financial stability. It’s time to discuss replacing the Erie County Legislature and substituting it with a Board of Supervisors form of county government.