The County Legislature Reminds us of its Pointlessness

A fundamental, structural pointlessness. The County Legislature isn’t a necessity. County government as an entity generally exists to carry out state laws and policies. Of its $1.1 billion budget, the legislature has discretion over how about 1/10th of it gets spent. We are lucky enough to have a reasonably competent county government that carries out the policies, programs, and standard of living that Albany and residents demand. We’re not cutting funding for things like libraries, culturals, and rat control anymore. We never should have, in the first place.

This week, the County Legislature spent many hours and taxpayer money to debate when bars should close. This is not something for which the community is clamoring; a 2:00 AM call time isn’t an issue. This was a manufactured nontroversy pulled out of the clear, blue sky by big-time developers of downtown housing. The people pushing this want to sanitize gritty city living for prospective buyers and tenants. All that talk about safety and families and domestic violence are just fronts; smokescreens. More troubling is that county government wasted time holding a lengthy public hearing about this pointless nonsense, and then took it up at its Thursday session, only to see it fail 7 – 3, with one abstention.

Powerful developer-donors hijacked the legislative agenda to push a pet project at the expense of Buffalo’s vibrant, growing hospitality industry.

It’s hard enough out here for business, the last thing we need is developers making it worse for others.

The legislature’s only mandate is to approve, reject, or make changes to the executive’s proposed budget.  Everything else is surplusage. During the dark Collins years, the legislature admirably added back Collins’ cuts to funding for programs and culturals that contribute to everyone’s quality of life. It’s a necessary check on reckless executive leadership. But is there another way to accomplish this? A cheaper, less political way? How about an appointed part-time budget commission? What about the control board, which still exists, and will exist for a longer period of time than it needed to, due to borrowing that it carried out at Collins’ insistence?

The spectacle of 11 elected, paid officials (plus staff and counsel) spending hours considering something as idiotic as restricting bar times is an insult to Erie County residents. There’s got to be a better way.

New York is overweight with governments and taxing districts. We’ve known this for a while, yet we don’t do anything about it. Efforts to abolish village governments routinely fail, underscoring that people enjoy the rhetoric of less government, but don’t really want it in practice. Right now, there is an effort underway to merge Onondaga County and city of Syracuse operations. We’ve had this debate, too. It always fails for a variety of reasons, not the least of which include prejudice and the self-interest of elected officials and their personnel.

If we want business and industry to thrive in this region, we need to make it easier for them to open and operate. Taxes, fees, red tape, and regulations are all too high and too much. We should become a national model for 21st century streamlining of government, and providing a predictable, easy-to-follow process for businesses to start up and stay open. No one’s doing that. No one’s even talking about it. Can’t we recruit some of these new hospitality companies and start-ups to head up a commission to recommend changes and modernization of our laws and regulations?

Instead, our elected county legislature is busy spending time on killing hospitality and jobs on behalf of short-sighted developers of high-end apartments.

Get with it, people. It’s not 1960 anymore.

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