Collins vs. Howard, PolitiFAIL 2010, Elite Eight

30 Mar

It’s a battle between an indolent and incompetent county sheriff and an arrogant plutocrat who has ascended to the position of Erie County Executive.

This should be entertaining.

Both are evidence of a shift in our local politics and their failure transcends the simple day-to-day numbskullery and duplicitous deviance that we encounter on a daily basis in our local politics.

Collins has only been in power for eighteen months, but he is racking up a FAIL resume that is impressive in its breadth while Howard is on to his second term of constant and documented epic unaccountable failure.  One might say this is a showdown between Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane.

Let’s start with Chris Collins and we’ll pull from some of the different articles written about him on WNYMedia in the 18 months since his election.  First up, Alan’s profile of Collins from January:

Chris Collins: The current Erie County Executive, and another in a long line of Republican chief executives – interrupted by only one Democrat, Dennis Gorski, from 1988 – 1999. Collins is the CEO of several local closely-held companies, and specializes in taking failing businesses and turning them around. He campaigned on a pledge to do the same thing for Erie County, pledging to run it like a business and to institute cost savings, rational use of resources, and fiscal responsibility through the use of  Lean Six Sigma. Although he pledged not to become a “chief politician”, his critics have noted that he has become exactly that, brokering political backroom deals and quids pro quos in order to ease his agenda through with minimal opposition and oversight. Biggest governmental success so far has been the reversion of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority to advisory status.

Up next, we’ll go to Colin’s preview from yesterday:

You know Collins’ record by now: behaving like the new George Wallace and standing in the doorway of the Erie County Holding Center, cutting county support for nutrition programs for children and pregnant women, and generally acting like a chauvinist ass.  He’s a real piece of shit.

Colin is direct, impolitic, but spot-on.

And finally from Alan’s first round preview:

Collins was elected Erie County Executive in 2007, pledging to run county government “like a business”.  The centerpiece of his plan was to implement “Six Sigma Lean” manufacturing process concepts to the delivery and management of county government services.  Administering a $1.1BN county budget, about 80% of which is dedicated to state mandates, Collins came into office while the county was operating under a hard control board, and with a flourish promised to accept only $1 per month in salary until such time as the control board switched to advisory status, which it did in early 2009.

But all of the businesses Collins ever ran were closely-held entities over which he always had the final word and more or less complete control.  His efforts to run county government closely follow that same model – far more confrontational and micromanaging than cooperative and trusting.  His administration has been heavy-handed in its dealings with anyone it perceives to be an enemy or threat, and he has taken a page from the Byron Brown playbook, running candidates against that enemies list.  In 2009, he won some and lost some.  Collins ran as a non-politician, but he’s a quick learner and has become quite the transactional actor, relying on principle only when absolutely necessary.  His administration’s mishandling of the Erie County Jails issue is inexplicable and dangerous.  Although he claims that Six Sigma has been a success, there is little evidence presented.  His decisions often pit wealthier suburbs against poorer city – for instance, his decision to get the county out of the WIC and health clinic businesses – both of which were funded fully by the federal government.  His excuse?  They were non-mandated services, and the county was still on the hook for legacy costs.  Yet the county also administers golf courses, which are non-mandated services operated by county workers with legacy costs, but the county remains in the golf course business.  His arrogance is matched by his wealth and dictatorial attitude, and his public pronouncements are mere parroting of talking points that have become tired cliches.

What Chris Collins fundamentally represents in this region is the new guard.  He is a nouveau riche entrepreneur infiltrating the old guard of Buffalo’s elite and filling board slots and patronage positions with members of the Amherst/Clarence business class.  A guy from the outer ring suburbs who doesn’t demonstrate loyalty to the urban core in policy decisions and wants to change the way we approach public policy and regional decisions.

Is it a good thing?  We’re certainly going to find out.

Sheriff Tim Howard

As for Sheriff Howard, what more can I add that hasn’t already been covered here?  Well, maybe I can wrap some context around that summary of misery and incompetence.  We have been the leading biographers of the Sheriff Howard era and we have carefully documented every piece of FAIL since Day One.  He is a disaster of elected proportions.  There is no way that this man, with this record should have been re-elected in 2009.

This point speaks to what I highlighted in the other matchup thread of the day, our inability or unwillingness to hold elected officials accountable.  Howard was able to win re-election last year by making the election about his opponent rather than his own record.  Captain John Glascott of the Cheektowaga Police Department was, by all measure, a good man with the qualifications to be Sheriff of Erie County.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as he hadn’t let a prisoner escape (after receiving reports on how to prevent said escape), he was eminently more qualified than Howard to fill the position.

Howard was able to distract from his failures and play upon the idea that prisoners aren’t staying at the Holiday Inn, they’re criminals, after all.  However, we’re talking about fundamental  violations of human rights and reckless abuse of the public trust.

We paid more attention to the talking points and the shiny baubles of superficiality than we did the fundamental issues, and we hose unwisely.  Since being re-elected, suicides in our jails are rampant, lawsuits are piling up and millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to defend against those lawsuits and prep the prisons for inspection.

We need to be smarter.

Wait, there is one more recent development we can add to the Sheriff’s impressive FAIL portfolio. In Sunday’s Buffalo News, we learned of the Sheriff’s crafty end-around on county limits on overtime pay in order to line the pockets of his appointees – “lineup pay”

Secretaries, special assistants, accountants and even top administrators already given cars and six-figure salaries can charge a half hour of overtime each day — not necessarily because the workload demands more of their time but because the system lets them. Because of an arbitrator’s decision last decade, both union and non-union employees can collect lineup pay even when on vacation. The income ratchets up their pension payments when they retire.

County Executive Collins, right, and Sheriff Tim Howard, left, compare beverages for Howard's next fundraiser

The article mentions that CE Collins “hopes” that Howard limits his lineup pay scheme….just like Boss Hogg used to “hope” Rosco P. Coltrane would ease up on setting up those illegal speed traps and pop-up hospital zone signs in an effort to get those Duke boys. Kew-kew-kew!

Sheriff Coltrane explains that he merely wants to reward “the best and brightest in management-confidential positions” – you know, the ultra-achievers who have turned the county’s department into a statewide (and national) laughingstock and one on which the Justice Department is training its sights to arrest (and, hopefully, correct) the multitude of abuses, neglect and utter incompetence in running a county sheriff’s department.

I can’t resist one more item….have you seen the Sheriff’s Message page on the EC Sheriff’s Office site? You would assume that it would be similar to most government official welcome messages – bland, benign, positive. Not ol’ Sheriff Timmy, though….check out the first line of his “welcome” message:

“The Erie County jails have five times that national rate for suicide as others”. That’s a memorable sound bite. But that is all it is- other than it being completely and utterly FALSE.

That’s not a welcome message from a high-ranking county official – that’s a blog comment from an unhinged crank. Complete with CAPS SO YOU KNOW HE’S SERIOUS, DAMN YOU!

Sheriff Tim Howard is treating this tournament like it was just booked into his Holding Center, he might pull an upset over Boss Hogg.

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One Response to “Collins vs. Howard, PolitiFAIL 2010, Elite Eight”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. PolitiFAIL Final Four, WNY Voters vs. Chris Collins | WNYmedia.net - March 31, 2010

    […] repeated Collins’ misdeeds over and over.  He’s a petty technocrat who, like his overwhelming white, suburban political base, […]

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