Collins’ Three Rs – Resist , Retain, Raise

16 Nov

The View from Poloncarz HQ

Bob McCarthy talks to local Republicans who seem as disgruntled as they are un-named, and lists off a series of concerns they have about the Erie County Republican Committee’s direction now that it lost the Corwin and Collins races.

One could easily quip that the Republicans have a problem running neighbors from Cobblestone Lane in Spaulding Lake to represent people with whom they are fundamentally, societally, monetarily out-of-touch, but that’s “class warfare”. Frankly, I don’t really care why the Republicans lost those races – and they were won by down-to-Earth, reasonable centrist Democrats like Kathy Hochul and Mark Poloncarz, and their platforms, messaging, GOTV, and ideas.

McCarthy uncritically transcribed this “concern” held by local unnamed Republican sources:

* How did a county executive who fulfilled all his promises with minimal effects on taxes and no scandals manage to lose?”

The first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem.

First of all, to say Collins didn’t have scandals is to ignore the time when he referred to the Jewish Assembly Speaker as the “anti-Christ”, and the time when Collins jokingly demanded a “lap dance” in order to save a seat at the State of the State address for a well-connected female executive at a local construction company. It ignores the fact that, to some people, informing them days before Christmas that they’d be losing their state-funded daycare services and that they’d have to quit their jobs to watch their kids, is quite scandalous indeed.

Secondly, Collins did not “fulfill all his promises“. Collins raised taxes, deepened regional cleaves, and ran on “Three Rs – Reforming Erie County government, Rebuilding the local economy, and ultimately, Reducing taxes.”

He did not reform county government – in fact, he resisted and blocked reforms almost routinely (another “r”); he did not rebuild the local economy, but ensured that stimulus funds were hoarded to artificially improve his balance sheet; and he did not reduce – but raised – taxes.

That’s breaking your promises, and that’s failure under any measure. It’s no wonder he lost.

8 Responses to “Collins’ Three Rs – Resist , Retain, Raise”

  1. Starbuck November 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    Collins raised taxes, …

    I think two simple political lessons among many to be learned from Collins’ years are:

    1. Republicans [as Michael Scott would say it…] should never, ever, for any reason, no matter what, no matter where, for any reason whatsoever, never raise taxes in any amount in any way. No matter the amount or circumstances, it will always be demagogued forever – sometimes effectively as happened in this campaign and to others as well (Clinton v Bush 41). R’s always and everywhere should make every effort possible to force spending cuts instead for any amount that tax hikes would bring in. Then if voters want tax hikes, they should have to elect D’s to do it.

    2. Library spending should never be cut in Erie County. It doesn’t have to be increased either, but politically it’s just dumb to ever cut it. Polling reportedly said it was around 7% of voters who consider it a top issue. That may sound small, but compared to the margin of defeat it isn’t small. Many of those voters have such an intense belief it should never be cut that it can outweigh any other issues with them. And library cuts always get a lot of ongoing news coverage, so awareness stays huge.

    If Collins did those two things differently he still probably still would’ve lost, but who knows?

    (By the way, I don’t think Collins “deepened regional cleaves”. I haven’t seen or heard anybody except Pundit say the cleaves are any deeper than they were before anybody heard of Collins in 2007. How about city-based D county legislature leaders backed by Poloncarz trying very hard to force so many outer towns all into one combined district from Eden to Marilla to Newstead? That wasn’t exactly them trying to undeepen cleaves and be friendly to people out there who complained loudly but had no say in the matter, was it?)

    • Alan Bedenko November 17, 2011 at 8:47 am #

      1. Republicans [as Michael Scott would say it…] should never, ever, for any reason, no matter what, no matter where, for any reason whatsoever, never raise taxes in any amount in any way. No matter the amount or circumstances, it will always be demagogued forever – sometimes effectively as happened in this campaign and to others as well (Clinton v Bush 41). R’s always and everywhere should make every effort possible to force spending cuts instead for any amount that tax hikes would bring in. Then if voters want tax hikes, they should have to elect D’s to do it.

      Actually, I think Republicans should advocate for sound fiscal policy, whether it means raising or lowering taxes, as the circumstances warrant. The problem is that they don’t – they are no longer the party of responsible and conservative fiscal policy, (and haven’t been for a generation). Had Collins come out and said – yeah, I raised taxes and I did it because I had no choice, given the dire circumstances in which I found the county, and I did it holding my nose, promising never to do it again, that would have had an impact. But Collins didn’t “come out and say” anything, hardly ever. He didn’t give a shit what you or I thought about his decisions. To him, they were a priori correct.

      2. Library spending should never be cut in Erie County. It doesn’t have to be increased either, but politically it’s just dumb to ever cut it. Polling reportedly said it was around 7% of voters who consider it a top issue. That may sound small, but compared to the margin of defeat it isn’t small. Many of those voters have such an intense belief it should never be cut that it can outweigh any other issues with them. And library cuts always get a lot of ongoing news coverage, so awareness stays huge.

      I think libraries are a symbol of a functioning and informed society, and it’s easy to portray any cut or diminution in funding as an assault on our very democracy. Any reform to the library system ought to be done in partnership with library advocates, and not as a clumsy attack.

      (By the way, I don’t think Collins “deepened regional cleaves”. I haven’t seen or heard anybody except Pundit say the cleaves are any deeper than they were before anybody heard of Collins in 2007. How about city-based D county legislature leaders backed by Poloncarz trying very hard to force so many outer towns all into one combined district from Eden to Marilla to Newstead? That wasn’t exactly them trying to undeepen cleaves and be friendly to people out there who complained loudly but had no say in the matter, was it?)

      Collins deepened the distrust and conflict between city and suburb. Although “reform” was one of his “three Rs”, he reformed absolutely nothing. In fact, with the libraries, he tried to de-reform the system into the darkness of special taxing districts. He did nothing to promote regional cooperation, he rejected out-of-hand any talk of a regional planning entity (although one is quite objectively and badly needed), he criticized any talk of merging IDAs who compete against and poach from one another as “Czarism”, he did nothing to set up a unified regional business development, retention, and attraction agency, and he was adamant in maintaining the structural status quo despite running as a reformer. Every one of his big efforts to reduce spending were deliberately targeted at the poorest city dwellers. That Mayor Brown went along with it quietly is a scandal in and of itself.

  2. Black Rock Lifer November 17, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Alan- Collins tapped into the anti city anti poor sentiment and worked this angle quite well. I was pleasantly surprised to see his defeat and I hope it is a sign the people of suburban WNY are starting to recognize the city as an equal partner. Now we need a progressive mayor to advocate for our city and work towards a regional solution to the areas problems.

  3. Charles November 17, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Collin suffered a death from a thousand cuts. The issues he chose to go to war over were not Libraries, cultural, arrogance, an ill-conceived Corwin style campaign, etc.along with and an underestimating credible opponent all contributed to a Polancarz win . How about the ridiculous stance on rat control? Or the slow pace of road repair? For these legitimate public expenditures, Collins could have kept his $800Gs in his own account and cruised to re-election.  

    Ironically, Collins essentially failed to run County government “like a business.”  The first rule of business is to keep the customers satisfied. Successful businesses know their customers and meet there needs and expectations. The hard sell in business trying to sell someone something they really don’t want more often than not depresses the business and dooms it to failure.

  4. Brian Wood November 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Ah, class warfare.

    I quote Al Franken (not about the county, but Repubs are Repubs everywhere):Any time that a liberal points out that the wealthy are disproportionately benefiting from Bush’s tax policies, Republicans shout, “class warfare!”

    In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her.

    That is class warfare.

    Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.

  5. Starbuck November 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Republicans should advocate for sound fiscal policy

    Of course, but sound fiscal policy means not spending beyond revenues.

    In that sense, there was nothing fiscally unsound about Collins’ tax hike. Nor would there have been if instead he’d further reduced nonmandated spending by the same amount in that first budget.

    But politically, raising taxes handed on a silver platter to political opponents a talking point mallet with which to club him repeatedly throughout the campaign (and even afterward, as you did above). He couldn’t believably have said he “had no choice” as in your hypothetical. He did find spending cuts in later years’ budgets, so clearly that choice was there all along. It was a big goof politically, and other Rs would be smart to learn from it (and the library cuts).

    Regarding city/suburbs, what you list about opposing a new entity for “regional planning” and not trying to merge IDAs was all status quo. By definition, that isn’t worsening or deepening anything. It’s keeping things the same.

    Wasn’t Poloncarz as comptroller highly critical of the city-county parks deal created by Giambra? I think he was, and I don’t recall him criticizing Collins for wanting to end it. (Did that count as a “big effort to reduce spending”?) Nor do I recall Poloncarz promising to revive it if elected CE, so apparently he agreed with Collins about it. Did that deepen any regional cleaves? But if it did, it was Collins’ fault only?

    And no reply about the city-based D’s (Maria, Betty Jean, BMW), all backed by Poloncarz, giving a big middle finger to many of the county’s outer areas with their attempted redistricting plan? That was warm, fuzzy, and trying to promote regional good feelings, huh?

  6. Hank November 18, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    What will raising taxes on the top 1% do? Will it pay off the 7 trillion dollars in additional national debt incurred since Barry took office? You’re not even warm.
    You cant balance a budget by spending 1.40 for every dollar you take in. Only in the mind of Nancy Pelosi is a 3% increase in the education budget a “Cut”, because she wanted 6%. Most liberals think that way. The Government is the poster child for spendthrifts. Liberals think Govermnent is the answer to all problems. But when the Government is 15 Trillion in the hole, just what can government do? Fear not—They’ll start by cutting back the military. THAT will fix EVERYTHING, and we will have families where nobody has ever held a job for 6 generations instead of 5. That’s OK though, work is not anything to be encouraged or respected.

  7. Max November 19, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    You can’t fund 2 wars, cut taxes and head off merrily to the Mall to spend whatever -if any – that’s left on the credit card. That’s evident in the S&P downgrade of US debt and will be more so when – not if – interest rates cease their slumber @ 0% and proceed to inch upward.

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