Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Rural Take on Erie County Politics


It's the most...wonderful tiiiiime of the year

...unless you're an elected official attempting to cobble together a budget in the midst of a recession economy.

In Genesee County we've had our budget fight and we've approved ~140 million dollars in spending.  A great man had to sacrifice his job to keep a world renowned alternative justice program away from the fiscal guillotine for one more year, but we got it done.

Our neighbors to the west in Erie County have had their own budget drag 'em out this year.  In one corner, they had County Executive Chris 'Null and Void' Collins and his personal staff of well-trained legislators and in the other corner stood County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, democratic legislators and the law.

The territory being fought over is cultural spending (hippie art crap in republican parlance,) libraries (pronounced liberrys if you've never been to one,) and staff cuts at the County Comptroller's office (the independent auditing agency that keeps Chris Collins honest.)

For some background from an Erie County blogger or two in the know, follow these links:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to go very deep into Erie County's situation and most of the folks who read this little page don't either, but I think a few points about good government need to be made using the antics of Chris Collins as an example.

We'll start with the question everyone asks me when I bring up the Erie County situation:  'Chris, why is County Executive Collins such a tool?'

Well, I don't know the answer to that.  Maybe he was born that way.  Maybe his mother didn't love him enough.  Maybe it's been too long since his last lapdance.

What do I really think?  Well, it's almost time for him to run what promises to be a tough re-election campaign and I find it fairly obvious that he is attempting to do as much damage to potential opponents like Mark Poloncarz and Kathy Hochul as possible while fortifying his suburban base.  See Chris Smith's story for a more in-depth breakdown on partisan politics in Erie County.

As an interested observer in this situation, I can't find any logical reason, other than the political one, for Collins to act in the manner that he has over the last few weeks.  He told his constituents the cuts had to be made to hold the line on taxes.  Fine.  So, democratic legislators submitted budget amendments that kept the culturals, the libraries and the Comptroller's staff intact without a tax increase, then passed them all.  In response, Collins declared the amendments submitted by democrats 'null and void.'  He may have also been overheard saying, 'Neener-neener,' and 'I'm rubber, you're glue, fuck your amendments.'

Erie County certainly isn't the only cesspool of a-hole politics to be found in today's America, but it's a great case in point.  To hell with good government, to hell with representing the populace and to hell with anything resembling common sense.  It's all about the next election.

I'd like to say that there's a fix for this, but there isn't.  Mr. Smith is never going to Washington.  He's never going to Albany or County Hall.  Mr. Smith will be damn lucky if he can afford to put gas in his car so he can go to his McJob.  That is why I find it particularly disgusting when a guy like Chris Collins insists on operating only within the boundaries of his next campaign which, I assure you, will not include making promises or even listening to the sort of people who need after school programs or pregnancy prevention and certainly not the folks who need public libraries so their kids can do schoolwork etc...

Let's leave aside the liberal hippie spending on social programs, the arts and libraries though and focus for a moment on the most politically charged portion of the Collins cuts.  How in the hell can it be legal for an executive to unilaterally slash the staff, budget and ability to perform of the the only department in Erie County that has a chance of keeping him honest?

Over the last six years, Comptroller Poloncarz's office has conducted 51 audits and major reviews, some of which were not kind to the Chris Collins regime.  Collins only gives the Comptroller credit for four.  I suppose it's possible that the County Executive was too busy  waving his finger in Kathy Hochul's face, forgetting he's met a US Senator  or engaging in various other forms of poor behavior that he simply didn't notice the other FORTY-SEVEN, never mind, it's not possible; Collins is just lying.

We can expect the bullshit level in Erie County to continue climbing over the next year.  Over here in farm country we may have to start wondering whether that smell next summer is fertilizer in the fields or Chris Collins opening his mouth 20 miles west.

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