See if you can follow this. Lynn Marinelli announces charter review commission on channel 2 at 11:00pm.
What happen to all this.
5/3/2005 Buffalo News
Last month, the Erie County Legislature quietly took a small step that could lead to big changes in the way this region runs. In voting to create a charter review commission, lawmakers agreed to study the way county government governs. The time for that is right.
The question now is whether those in positions of power will make a good faith effort to implement reforms that actually may make county government more efficient. Too often, these attempts at good government are effectively frustrated by the political class that has a vested interest in the status quo. One only has to look at efforts by both parties to quell an effort at real reform. They persuaded voters in 1997 to vote against even holding a state constitutional convention.
The county's financial implosion and the bickering that followed it offers reason enough for a hard look at change. County leaders should have the courage to actually form this commission - and commission members should have the courage to consider sweeping changes.
Unlike the operational study - that is, how efficiently tax money is spent - that we called for in the fist editorial in this series, this commission should consider the structure of county government. It should consider abolishing the office of county executive, and replacing it with a strong, professional county administrator answerable to a policy-setting legislature. Erie County now needs trained professional management, and a system that downplays the political divisiveness that has crippled attempts to deal forthrightly and cooperatively with a fiscal crisis.
There is a slow national trend toward professional county administration, according to the International City/County Management Association. Only 478 of the nation's 3,040 counties have Erie County's form of government. The vast majority, 2,191, rely on a much older form of government by commissioners, but an increasing number of municipalities are considering joining the 371 counties that have a legislature and a legislatively appointed administrator.
Appointing a non-political administrator allows searches for the best possible candidates, including those who have gained valuable experience - in management, not politics - elsewhere. Appointed administrators, who serve no set terms, ideally are responsible to the position, not to the political process. And although voters lose the chance to elect them, professional administrators claim they have to run for the office each and every day.
Erie County's government changed in the 1960s from a board of supervisors, which included every town supervisor, to an elected county executive and, later in the decade, an elected Legislature. The old board, which chose its own chairman as the county's head, died in part because of the changing nature of an increasingly urban county and in part because its own system of committees, each of which set policy for the county, grew unwieldly.
A charter review commission should review whether a county administrator system could solve current management ills while restoring the policy-setting power of a broadly representative elected body.
County Executive Joel Giambra vetoed a similar move to create a charter review commission last year. And even if established, the commission, which could not include any current officeholders or county employees, has only a broad mandate to study "the operations of Erie County in their full scope" and its "inter-municipal relations." Still, such a committee could use that mandate to help reshape county government.
If Giambra vetoes the commission proposal again, the Legislature should override. And it should urge, in the strongest language possible, the commissioners to make strong recommendations for change. This is not the time to nibble around the edges or obstruct change in the name of the status quo.
A smart and effective county manager, armed with information gained from a thorough operational audit, could begin the process of fixing our broken county government. This is not a time for timidity. It is time to consider major changes in the way Erie County does business. It is no sin to break a mold if the mold produces broken dreams.
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News from County Executive Giambra
Giambra, Legislators Announce Kick-Off Of Charter Revision Commission
Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra joined with Erie County Legislators Jeanne Z. Chase (R-Hamburg/Evans), Elise M. Cusack (R-Amherst/Tonawanda) and Denise E. Marshall (R-Lancaster) this morning to announce the County Executive's and Legislature's Republican Caucus Appointments to the Erie County's Charter Revision Commission. They further urged that all other Legislature Appointments be made quickly and that the Commission convene within thirty days.
"The Charter Review Commission has an important task to accomplish," said County Executive Giambra. "The commission has not met in over 20 years and the county charter should be reviewed and updated."
"It is so important that we take time to have a review of how our government operates, and what purpose it serves in the lives of taxpayers and their families," added Legislator Cusack, who was a driving force behind re-establishing the Commission. "I am eager to work hand-in-hand with the Commission in our on-going effort to find ways to make Erie County government stronger and more responsible."
Under the Erie County Charter, the Commission has been charged with the duty to determine whether the Charter and Code continue to be an effective framework for Erie County government.
The last Charter Review Commission was established by the Erie County Legislature in March of 1980, and met over the course of the following year. The Legislature adopted a portion of the Commission's recommendations in 1981.
"The last time that our Charter was reviewed in Erie County, the scope of government was quite different," said Legislator Chase. "It is essential that we update the law that governs us to reflect changing times, and governmental decisions that have been made over the past 24 years."
Examples of out-of-date information include the fact that the Erie County Charter continues to reflect the 20-Legislative District format, rather than the current arrangement, with features legislators covering a total of 15 districts. Other articles of the Charter require updating, as well, for example: renaming the Erie County Technical Institute as Erie Community College and recognizing Erie County Medical Center's new status as a public benefit corporation.
Appointments to the Commission - 22 in total - have almost been finalized. The County Executive's Appointments as well as those of the Legislature's Republican Caucus, were made in the Legislative session on Thursday, March 4.
"Today's announcement is an exciting one, as we will have the opportunity to examine in detail the way that Erie County government operates, and make it better serve our residents," added Marshall. "I'm anxious to get started, and to hear the findings and recommendations of the Commission."
Republican Caucus Appointments to the Charter Review Commission
Dale Larson - Former Erie County Legislator from the Town of Lancaster (Marshall)
Dr. John Long - Former Executive Assistant to County Executives Rath and Regan (Swanick)
Tim Walker - Partner, Hiscock and Barclay (Chase)
Arvela Heider, Ph. D. - President, Holark Systems (Weinstein)
Michael Zabel - Former communications director to both Congressman Paxon and Attorney General Vacco, and now for M&T Bank (Cusack)
Catherine Weiss - Western New York Community Volunteer and Activist (Ranzenhofer)
William McNamara - Risk Management Account Executive for Hatch, Leonard & Naples (McCarville)
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March 9, 2004
Legislators File Local Law to Begin Charter Review
"Conducting a Charter review in Erie County was one of our five key initiatives in the Democratic Action Agenda for 2004," said Legislature Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli (D-Tonawanda/Buffalo), Chair of the Legislature's Government Affairs Committee.
The Democrats' Action Agenda was released on February 10th and a resolution supporting a Charter Review was approved unanimously at the Legislative Session on February 19th.
Legislators noted that the existing charter is quite outdated and should be changed to reflect changes at Erie County Medical Center and other proposals currently before the County.
"Today we filed a Local Law which officially establishes the Charter Commission and revises the members to include the appropriate stakeholders at the table," said Legislature Chairman George A. Holt, Jr. (D-Buffalo). "We look forward to this being a non-partisan effort and we plan several meetings to allow the public to also weigh in on this issue."
COUNTY OF ERIE
LOCAL LAW INTRO NO. 3- 2004
LOCAL LAW NO.____________- 2004
A LOCAL LAW amending, Local Law No. 1-1959, constituting the Erie County Charter as amended, in relation to the re-establishment, restructuring and reconvening of the Erie County Charter Revision Commission.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE ERIE COUNTY LEGISLATURE AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. PURPOSE. Section 1907 of Article 19 of Local Law #1-1959 constituting the Erie County Charter, as amended, establishing a Charter Revision Commission is repealed, and a new Section 1907 hereby establishing a Charter Revision Commission for the year 2004 is established as a fully amending Section 1907 of the Erie County Charter.
Section 2. CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION. That upon the adoption of this Local Law the County Legislature hereby creates a Charter Revision Commission to be established on or before April 15, 2004.
Section 3. THE PERVIEW OF THE CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION. The Charter Revision Commission shall study the operations of the County of Erie in their full scope; and shall consider the inter-municipal relations of the County of Erie and the myriad responsibilities that the County of Erie discharges in the course of its broadly defined duties to determine whether the Erie County Charter and the Erie County Administrative Code shall be further amended to render same as an effective framework for County government, and to adopt such amendments as may be necessary to facilitate the delivery of services to the public and to better coordinate the functions between departments and agencies of the County and the various Cities, Towns and Villages within the County. The Charter Revision Commission shall submit a final report, which shall include its findings, conclusions, and recommendations for appropriate action to the County Legislature and the County Executive on or before the 15th day of April, 2005.
Section 4. METHODOLOGY OF OPERATION. The Commission shall be provided with adequate funding for staff and costs incident to the discharge of its responsibilities as may be deemed necessary by the Erie County Legislature in the furtherance of its assigned duties.
Section 5. MEMBERSHIP. The Charter Revision Commission shall be composed of 23 members with one (1) member to be appointed by each District Legislator of the Erie County Legislature. The County Executive of the County of Erie shall appoint three (3) members, and the County Clerk, County Comptroller, County Sheriff, and the County District Attorney of the County of Erie shall have one appointee each to the Commission. In addition to the other designated appointment, the Chair of the Erie County Legislature shall also appoint the Chairperson of the Charter Revision Commission.
No member of the Commission shall hold public office or be an employee of the County during the term of his/her appointment.
Section 6. REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. The County Legislature shall act on all reports and recommendations submitted to it in a timely fashion by the Charter Revision Commission by either approving or disapproving each recommendation separately within three (3) months from the date of the submission of the findings, conclusions and report of the Commission.
GEORGE A. HOLT LYNN M. MARINELLI
EDWARD KUWIK MARK J. SCHROEDER
ALBERT DEBENEDETTI DEMONE SMITH
RAYMOND DUSZA TIMOTHY WROBLEWSKI