On “Fairness” and Collins

29 Jul

1. I was told yesterday that one of the plaintiffs in the new Bass Pro lawsuit did not want to speak with Chris or Marc or anyone from WNYMedia.net because I hadn’t called him (or any of the plaintiffs) for comment before writing this blog post. Well, here’s why. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve called someone for comment on anything I was going to write – because this isn’t news. This is editorial commentary. If I’ve read the text of the lawsuit, haven’t I already consumed their “side of the story?” If I’ve read the straight reporting from the News or Artvoice or Channel 2, I’ve absorbed the facts I need to see in order to formulate an opinion and reach a conclusion.

In the case of the professional plaintiffs’ society, the lawsuit text speaks for itself. What could the Fishers, e.g., possibly add except some pro-Fisher, anti-ECHDC spin?

The reason we still maintain a comments section, and the reason my email is available on the site, is so that anyone who cares to do so can leave a comment on the site or via email. If any of the plaintiffs want to respond, they could do so in any one of those ways. Ray Walter is smart – his opinion differs from ours on just about everything, but he’s secure enough in his convictions to mix it up with us – even yesterday on Brad Riter’s show on WECK.

If you have something to say, say it. Passive aggression is silly.

2. (Hey, look! I’ve included two blog posts in one. I have streamlined the blogging process and thus saved you about 20 seconds’ worth of clicking.)

“Pundit hates Chris Collins”. I realize that my audience is much, much bigger than it was when Joel Giambra was county executive, but if you compare what I wrote then to what I write now about Collins, you’ll note that my current material is quite tame and reasonable in comparison.

I don’t hate Chris Collins. I don’t have any emotional response to Chris Collins. What I think is that Chris Collins is a bland, uninspiring technocrat – a micromanaging, hyperpolitical, beancounting pencil-pusher who is perpetually frustrated that he can’t just run the county like a dictatorship. He is neither used to, nor tolerant of, opposition or criticism. He can solve any personal or political problem through free spending, yet Erie County’s poor and working poor have their desperately needed, federally reimbursed services cut or privatized.

Not to bring up Ray Walter’s name again, but he called in yesterday on Brad Riter’s show to defend Collins and the budgetary choices he’s made. To Walter’s mind, Collins has “reformed” county government by virtue of his careful choices with respect to taxes and spending.

But that’s not reform. I don’t define reform as “playing the same old rules a bit differently” or “pinching pennies”. When you’re talking about a prospective $30 million + budget deficit that’s been forecast for months, penny pinching isn’t obviously solving the fundamental problems.

Reform to me means things like implementing performance-based budgeting – something that was added to the Erie County Charter overwhelmingly by the voters via 2006 referendum. This isn’t a partisan attack, by the way. Clarence’s Democratic Town Supervisor, Scott Bylewski has seen to it that Six Sigma process improvements have gone hand-in-hand with performance-based budgeting to reduce waste in both time and money. Reforms introduced in the legislature by long-ago names like “Locklear” and “Konst” and “Iannello” still languish in committee limbo, never to be debated or voted on.

And above all, the micromanaging Pigeon ally technocrat is more concerned with power and image than he is with making important changes to the very structure of Erie County through regionalism, consolidation of taxing entities, which would improve interagency, inter-entity efficiency and lurch our governmental structure out of the 19th century and into the 21st. Yes, I know that Erie County is a legal construct and subsidiary of the State, but state legislators have been working on making it extraordinarily easy for counties to change how they are structuredright down to abolition.

It’s nice that Chris Collins wants to save money, but it would be nicer if he looked at the big picture, fundamental changes that might save millions rather than thousands, and bring about reforms (or at least advocate for them) that would help make Erie County more competitive.

Say what you want about Giambra’s two terms of fail, but at least he was out there using his bully pulpit for big ideas like regionalism every once in a while.

Reform isn’t defined by the way in which you play the game. It’s defined by changing the game itself.

6 Responses to “On “Fairness” and Collins”

  1. peteherr July 29, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    I guess the part that irritates me is that, because Mr. Collins DIDN’t truly enact any reforms, we are at a spot where we are staring at a $30+ million deficit. With that deficit comes the probablity of layoffs….so, who loses? The unions, that Chris Collins doesn’t like anyway, because he is a businessman (so I’ve heard) and business people know that typically the place where you can realize significant savings is in payroll and benefits.

    On another note, I like Ray Walter, but to see any of the Erie County Legislators back Chris Collins after that crap he pulled with the veto override a week or so ago. Chris Collins does not believe he is accountable to anyone. There is no separate but equal branches of government if he feels he can just ignore a veto override. I have not seen whether this issue has played itself out yet, but that fact that he had the audacity to even do it tells you alot about his character.

    • Brian Castner July 29, 2010 at 8:44 am #

      Pete – If you don’t blame Obama for the mess of the economy (and budget deficits), how can you blame Collins? He didn’t start a recession in Erie County, whose budget is greatly affected by sales tax (those pesky Canadians, and all). As Ray alludes to in Pundit’s other piece, Erie County has been in the black for two years while the rest of New York state local government has been wallowing in red. Collins has done nothing right? Would you rather he had 1) hoarded more stim money the last two years, 2) raised taxes, or 3) transfered more services to private sector from gov’t employees? Now we finally have our turn, and its a managable hole. What made us think it was never going to happen?

    • Ray Walter July 29, 2010 at 9:15 am #

      Peter, you are correct there are not seperate but equal branches of government in Erie County. The County Charter is not the US Constitution. Our Charter is set up so that the Executive branch is way more powerful than the legsilative branch. This was done intentionally. Not only does the Charter designate the County Executive as the Chief Budget Officer but Article 26 regarding Fiancial Procedures gives the Executive even more power. Other than that ditto what Brian said.

  2. Ray Walter July 29, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Regarding reforms, anything that had Locklear’s name on it has timed out and is off of the agenda. I have asked the staff to get me copies of those reforms for my review. If my memory serves me correctly none of them were groundbreaking reforms. I know one of them was term limits which I support and have introduced a local law limiting every county elected official to an eight year maximum. The Democrats won’t touch it. Another was to have evening meetings. I also support that. There was a resolution pending in the Government Affairs committee that was introduced by Ianello last year. It was recently received and filed on Legislator Marinelli’s motion. I voted in the negative. But this is just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. I like what I saw in the links you posted in the story, but those type of reforms will take state action. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t advocate for these changes and I would love to sit down with anyone to put this type of an action plan together, let me know.

  3. peteherr July 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    Brian – It isn’t a matter of blaming people for the economy and the deficits. I don’t even blame Collins for that . I understand that the economy is cyclical and we gotta have ups and downs. I don’t even care as much about the deficits. Here’s my analogy. Last year, my wife didn’t work. We cut back where we could and we credit carded the rest. This year she works, so we are paying down the deficits we created and saving some for the next rainy day. It’s the same thing with government except, the credit card companies charge me 25%ish. While the government is paying low, low interest on bonds and even the money the government borrows is at a low interest rate right now.

    My problems with Collins are A.) his attitude. From what I see…he’s a dick. He makes no bones about his distaste for unions. He treats them with disdain….like announcing the terms of a contract deal to the news before they take care of business with their membership. That’s not bargaining in good faith. Even this thing with the County Legislature and the veto override. Legislator Walter, I am no expert on local government, but if the County Executive can ignore it when the Legislature overrides his veto, then why do we have an override procedure or going even farther, if the Legislature is inconsequential, then why do we have one at all?

    B.) I don’t think his methodology is producing the results. This budget shortfall for next year isn’t a surprise, and yet we are in trouble and the solution is to layoff the people he disdains. This, to me, is like Ronald Reagan complaining that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme and then borrowing from the Social Security surplus to fund other initiatives/minimize the deficite created by other massive government spending on defense. It’s basically starving the entitlements, and Collins is putting the budget deficits on the backs of county employees.

    Overall, government budgeting is bullshit on any level. There are a ton of different levels, and it’s a better play to layoff workers and close parks because constituents then say “oh no, that’s terrible…ok, raise my taxes”. At my work we had a deal on PCs for the classrooms that just dried up. Now we’ll have to run machines for a 4 year rotation instead of a 2 or 3 year rotation…not layoff employees so we can keep newer computers. Might be a bad example, but you know what I mean.

  4. Breaking Bad July 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    Ah yes, Democratic HQ hated Konst, Locklear and (for a time) Iannello.

    Lucky for the Machines, the Republicans beat the three most honest reformers in probably 50 years – in the name of “reform”.

    And anyone who doesn’t buy it, you gotta read those bills Iannello and Konst introduced – You’ll cry. Seriously.

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