I was pleased to have been invited to represent the Partnership before the Erie County Legislature's 21st Century Commission yesterday afternoon, to discuss the reforms to the Erie County Legislature recommended by the Erie County Stabilization Project (big read, but the parts concerning the Legislature are on pages 207-217) in 2005.
It's interesting, because we've been trying very hard to get Albany to implement some reform. Unfortunately, in this budget, they went completely the opposite direction - using federal stimulus money to justify and INCREASE in spending. So, for now, at least, we look to local government for reform opportunities.
The Erie County Legislature has actually created an avenue for reform in the 21st Century Commission - a commission designed specifically to look at reform opportunities. We have to give Leg Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli a great deal of credit for stepping out ahead on this. Interestingly, while the Giambra administration tackled a lot of the recommendations of the ECSP report after its release, for the items regarding the Legislature there was always the caveat that they "would not tell the Legislature what to do." As a result, this is the first time that 2005's recommendations regarding the Legislature are having their day in court.
If you're interested, you can read the recommendations in the .pdf report above. One of the things I pointed out in my comments yesterday was the poor excuse that is often given for not reforming - that specific reforms are simply "symbolic." Cutting legislators' salaries is always dismissed as "symbolic." Closing district offices, the same. After all, what's $300,000 in a $1 billion budget? Unfortunately, as these "symbolic" dismissals pile up, so do the cost-of-government savings opportunities. It's time we really look at some of these "symbolic" reforms and get them implemented.
We look forward to the recommendations of the 21st Century Commission, and will continue to urge the Erie County Legislature to examine itself as an entity and make changes that will benefit taxpayers.