Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Downsizing, Dissolution, and Rome’s Triumvirates

In Board of Trustees on December 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

The Buffalo News published my opinion piece about downsizing government and dissolution of Village government.  These proposals are popular at both the State level and in Erie County.  Springville’s elected official’s main concern about these and other proposals at the State, County, and Town level is always about the impact on our Village services and quality of life.

Another Voice / Local government

Down Sizing fan – Wrong Medicine

By Bill Krebs

December 12, 2009, 7:09 AM / 2 comments

The passage of New York State’s Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act this past June, and the recent referendums on downsizing town governments, are signs that some people think that representative democracy does not work. As the Village of Springville mayor, my question is how will downsizing, consolidation and dissolution effect meaningful improvement in the quality of life for me and my neighbors. My guess is that they will not.

There is great irony that the movement in Erie County to downsize town boards to three councilmen is happening at the same time Western New Yorkers fault the Albany decision-making process involving the governor and legislative leaders, dubbed “Three Men in a Room.” History lessons taught me that the Triumvirates of Rome served a political purpose, but I don’t think it included putting money into the togas of ordinary citizens. When political power has been concentrated into the hands of few, the actual result has rarely been immediate improvement of the citizenry.

Kevin Gaughan jumped on this bandwagon a few years ago. I’ve heard him say he wants to stop the “hemorrhage” of money, jobs and population from Western New York. His plan was to downsize town representation. Now, he wants to dissolve 16 villages. His bandwagon appeal is popular. The quick fix is on.

Too bad we’ve lost sight of the problem. Too bad more taxpayer money is spent funding government at the county, state and federal levels than at the local level. Too bad the state has shifted political reform away from itself and onto local governments. Too bad we have forgotten that historical and economic forces caused the loss of money, jobs and people from Erie County. Too bad that downsizing, consolidation and dissolution will not fix the ills caused by economic forces and poor state leadership.

Shifting the blame onto local governments was certainly easy to do. In a similar way, local town residents who have successfully petitioned to shrink their representation can boast that they did something to shrink the cost of government.

Meanwhile, the real problems have not been addressed, and representation at the most efficient level of government is threatened. The goal of village elected officials is simple and altruistic: to ensure services to our village. Our greatest frustrations come from problems we have no control over — not only the economic and historical trends, but the actions of the layers of government far removed from our streets.

Downsizing, consolidation and dissolution have become emotional slogans rather than effective solutions to governance problems. I think my neighbors and I should continue to keep watch over our own public services with the representation our village affords us.

Bill Krebs is mayor of the Village of Springville.