The new year brings a number of significant changes to Erie County government. In addition to a new county executive, the new legislature was sworn in last week. The legislature now has been downsized to eleven members and consists of six Democrats, four Republicans and one Independence Party member. Now that the elections are over, citizens expect legislators of both parties to put politics aside and work together for the good of the county. Residents should be pleased to know that this is what we have been doing.
This is not to say, of course, that we still do not have our differences. When I attended the county executive’s swearing-in ceremony and heard him say that “government is not and a business and should not be run like one,” I had to cringe. I remarked to one of my colleagues that the executive had it half right. Government is indeed not a business. There are a number of fundamental differences between government and business. This does not mean, however, that government should not be run in a more businesslike fashion. I believe, for instance, that the previous county executive’s efforts to teach employees the business management tool known as six sigma has made county government more efficient and greatly benefitted taxpayers. The other members of the Republican Caucus feel the same way. That is why we had to think long and hard when the county executive wanted us to amend the budget and delete the Director of Six Sigma in order to free up money for new positions in his office. Despite our reservations, we concluded that the new executive should be given the leeway to organize his office in the way he saw fit given his priorities. Therefore we reluctantly approved his request.
I suspect that this spirit of cooperation will extend to another area where I do not see eye to eye with the new executive. The county recently settled a lawsuit with a woman who nearly drowned several years ago in a City of Buffalo pool during the time the city’s parks were operated by the county. The county executive would like to bond the entire $7 million settlement. I feel we should pay this cost from a combination of cash from our self-insurance fund and surplus. Other Republicans agree with me. During our January 5th meeting the executive met with us and we discussed our differences. Although the issue was not resolved, I am certain a satisfactory compromise will be reached because unlike Washington, Democrats and Republicans can work together in Erie County Hall.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.