It’s so alive, it’s dead

9 May

Lest anyone think that the Greiner-Masiello-Giambra proposal for a city-county merger were still a viable option, today’s Buffalo News article merely serves as its obituary.

Tony Masiello is all out of political clout. Ditto HRH Joel Giambra. Former UB President rounds out the triumverate of de facto and de jure ex officios.

Advocates trying to revive a merger of Buffalo and Erie County say they no longer believe they need the state’s blessing to establish the “Regional City of Buffalo.”

“We’d like it to be a local process,” said William R. Greiner, the former University at Buffalo president whose so-called “Greater Buffalo” commission unveiled its recommendations Jan. 18, during Erie County’s worst financial crisis in decades.

“I think the governor and the Legislature have enough to do,” Greiner said.

At one time, the panel established by County Executive Joel A. Giambra and Mayor Anthony M. Masiello wanted voters to decide in November on its plan to fold the Common Council into an expanded County Legislature.

It’s not going to happen.

In September 2005, we all thought that the city was a basket case, while the county was well-run. I can still remember Sandy Beach sweetly singing Giambra’s praises while stabbing Tony in the back. My mind’s eye sees a Donn Esmonde column holding out one last hope for King Joel. December 2005 changed all that.

While the city is actually rather well-run now (with the help of a state control board), the county is run poorly and getting poorer.

Many are now clamoring for a control board for Erie County. Why? Because the only short-term solution is raising taxes, and not one person has either the political will or capital to make that happen. Of course, the only real solution is completely restructuring Albany, but that will take years to do, and even longer to have a positive impact on county coffers. A control board would come in, notice that Erie County hasn’t yet reached its constitutional taxation limit, and instantly raise property and sales taxes. Hooray.

While Greiner et al call it a city-county merger, it’s really a county swallowing of the city. As things stand now, it should be the other way around. I’ve advocated for an abolition of county government for many months because it’s wasteful, redundant, and permits Albany to get away with its persistent punishment of the people of New York. The events in the County of Erie since about November have only reinforced my position on that point. What’s remarkable is that not many others have taken on my position.

The State should abolish county government. We need fundamental, constitutional reform in Albany to permit New York’s upstate cities to flourish again. We need lower taxes, fewer taxes and smarter regulation. We need people in Albany who don’t kowtow to the lobbyists and unions, but instead think to themselves: what can I do today to better the lot of my constituents?

Until that happens, New York State is doomed.

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