The Gaughan Plan


I propose a sweeping reform of our present government structure and creation of one new, unified government for Buffalo and Erie County.

Simultaneous to establishing the new government, we must seize the initiative and address related policies and practices that hold back our city and its economy.


BUFFALO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT
“THE BMG”

 

1. The New Government's Structure

Executive Branch
Executive / Mayor: Elected county-wide; the chief executive officer and chief fiscal officer, in accordance with existing municipal corporation law.

Urban Advocate: Elected county-wide; powers are a hybrid of New York City consumer advocate and United States vice president; serves as president of the legislature with tie-breaking vote authority. Oversees the BMG’s service delivery in and public policies for the urban core.

Legislative Branch
5 Inner Ring Members: each of whom represent a district that includes a portion of the City of Buffalo, along with certain election districts in “inner ring” portions of the towns of Amherst, Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, West Seneca, Hamburg, and the City of Lackawanna (equal to 50% of county population.)

5 Outer Ring Members: whose districts represent the balance of the “built-up” and rural suburbs (equal to 50% of county population.)

Urban Advocate: presides over the body; possesses voting right in the event of tie; thereby assures that all policy matters before the legislature will be viewed from an urban center perspective.

This legislature would unite in interest Buffalo with its inner ring suburbs by tying those areas that share social-economic make-up (measured by per capita income, housing stock value; number of free school lunches). In effect, this would “enlarge” the city not through annexation, but through drawing the new government’s legislative districts to reflect today’s reality. Kevin Gaughan's legislative plan conceives of a ten member body with an eleventh member to cast a tie-breaking vote. 

2. IDA Consolidation

At its inception, the suburbs do not participate in the new government. As a result, and to build confidence among city residents that the suburbs will sacrifice as well, there must be suburban sacrifice of individual benefit for a collective good. The birth of the newly merged city-county government should coincide with culmination of the lengthy debate to consolidate our several IDA’s into one.

3. Coordinate Governance and Education Reforms

The Erie County Association of School Boards (ECASB) is currently conducting a study to determine whether to reduce the number of school districts from thirty. Their decision will affect how students are educated throughout the county, including in the Buffalo School District. Reform efforts should not be conducted in separate vacuums, but rather be viewed as all of a piece, intended to strengthen the urban core and create a successful regional economy. To accomplish this, the city-county merger commission should collaborate with the ECASB to begin long-range plans for creating a viable urban school district.

4. Land Use and Regional Planning

Creation of the new government should also coincide with re-establishment of a Buffalo-Niagara planning council to organize regional growth in sustainable manner, re-direct investment into Buffalo, protect our area’s rural settings, and create consensus on those centers where we wish to concentrate commercial investment.

5. Public Transportation

The new government will open the door for public transportation reforms to re-connect inner city workers with growing employment opportunities in suburban locales. 

6. Training for Displaced Government Employees

The purpose of consolidating local governments is not to put people out of work, but rather to help create an investment climate to attract more private employers. In the short term, however, combining two large governments may result in a need for less personnel. Just as our community did for displaced private steel industry workers in the late 1970’s, we should be willing to create a support structure for public employees affected by reform. I envision a training and development center funded by a business / philanthropic community joint venture. Perhaps Erie Community College, which participated in steelworkers placement, can contribute to this effort as well. 

7. Region-wide Competition to Name New Government

Buffalo County, Greater Buffalo, the BMG, Regional City of Buffalo – I think we can do better. Let’s tap into our abundant creative capital by conducting a contest to name the new government. It will symbolize the inclusive nature of the new entity, capture the imagination of young Western New Yorkers, and add excitement to the enterprise.