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