Czarism

24 Oct

During the televised debate at WNED, and again (a couple of times) at the untelevised debate at St. Joe’s (WBFO has the audio here), Collins trotted out an allegation that Mark Poloncarz doesn’t want to be the County Executive, he wants to be the county “czar”. I have no doubt that this attack was crafted in order to appeal to Collins’ base – the WBEN-listening Obama haters who associate Democrats with communism and unfettered government spending and power.

The problem for Collins is that he unwittingly set a trap for himself, and then fell into it.

At the St. Joe’s debate, Poloncarz discussed how he’d look at reducing the size and scope of county government. He says we shouldn’t just arbitrarily cut things for the sake of cutting them, but instead we should examine and investigate what works, what doesn’t, and then use that as a starting point.

That’s not czarism. That’s good government; being inquisitive and innovative.

Collins, in calling Poloncarz a prospective “czar”, cited three issues:

1. Poloncarz’s 2008 call for a study to examine consolidating volunteer fire departments. Is that a discussion worth having if it maintains current services and protection by saving taxpayers money? Joe Weiss in Clarence learned that this is a third rail of suburban politics, but that was compounded by his belligerent and hateful attitude. It’s a discussion worth having.  Of course, Collins lied to the audience, stating that Poloncarz wants to eliminate volunteer fire departments.  Either way, it’s not part of Poloncarz’s platform and a facile attack by a desperate politician.

2. Poloncarz’s 2008 recommendation that we study moving from the current assessing scheme – whereby almost every town and village has its own assessor, and centralizing those functions to save money. That statistic that Collins loves to cite about New York’s Medicaid program costing more than Texas’ and California’s combined? New York State has 1,133 assessing entities, while California has 59. Which do you think is cheaper and more efficent?

3. Erie County maintains six separate and distinct Industrial Development Agencies, which have in the past poached businesses from one part of the county and moved it to another, and called that re-arrangement of deck chairs a “win”. Poloncarz believes that there should be a unified, one-stop-shop for businesses to go to for development and growth assistance, and that our continued reluctance to do this costs us money and opportunities. He is incredulous over the fact that states like North Carolina have business development offices in Toronto while Erie County does not.

Collins – the dictatorial micro-manager, the county coup plotter-in-chief – takes his biggest weakness and tries to hurl it at Poloncarz. But think about it – aside from demonizing and further marginalizing the poorest people in Erie County, what has Collins’ big idea been? Like his counterpart in Buffalo City Hall, Collins is a ribbon-cutter and little else; the bean counter di tutti bean counters. He exists to enrich his friends and satisfy his suburban base. That’s why he privatized the fully federally funded WIC program, but not the golf courses.  That’s why he paid for toboggan runs, but shuttered health clinics that made money for the county.  It’s why rumors are growing that Collins is going to hire a private outside firm (and big Republican donor) to manage Medicaid for the county.

And I’m not saying the county shouldn’t be paying for improvements and upkeep at its parks, and I’m not saying the county should be out of the golf business if it’s not a net drain on taxpayers. What I am saying is that priorities for government should also include care for the needy or sick, education, maintaining a vibrant arts community not just for visitors, but also for locals.

Poloncarz doesn’t want to be the county czar; on the contrary, he wants to fire the one we’ve got.

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