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New Government Structure

Free Buffalo to Release First Policy Report
By Gary S. Howell
Sep 28, 2005, 21:42
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Free Buffalo announced it will Release its first Policy Report. The report, titled “The Partnership Goes Far, But Not Far Enough”, will analyze and critique “A Plan for Moving On”, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership study of Erie County Government.

James Ostrowski, founder of Free Buffalo, will release and discuss the report Thursday, September 29th, at 6:00 pm, inside the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle. The library is located at 612 Fillmore Avenue, in Buffalo.


“A Plan for Moving On”

Earlier this year, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership gathered volunteers to join the Erie County Stabilization Project (ECSP). The goal of the ECSP is to study the current workings of Erie County government and recommend constructive improvements.

In August, the ECSP released a voluminous study titled, “A Plan for Moving On.” The 359 page document suggested numerous changes to the way Erie County does business.

ECSP volunteers divided county government services into sections. These sections are described and analyzed as “businesses”.

According to the study, the ECSP “…attempted to answer these basic questions:

*What are the businesses of County Government?
*What businesses of County Government are mandated by constitution, statute, or charter? (And what truly constitutes a mandate?)
*Why does the County do these things?
*Can the County do them better or more efficiently?”

ECSP volunteers had varying degrees of difficulty analyzing certain aspects of the County because of a “dearth of reliable, consistent data from County government”.

The sources of poor and/or inconsistent information made it difficult to determine the exact budgets of various departments and the precise number of people employed by the County.

The study came to the conclusion that, as of August, “no current 2005 budget document existed, nor had ‘actual’ budget numbers for 2004 been published.”

“Furthermore, volunteers found budget and personnel numbers (were) almost never consistent from one source document to the next.”

The ECSP study admits that “The absence of consistent, reliable data certainly affects this report.” But, it qualifies this condition, stating, “the recommendations within (the study) are critically important, even though their precise costs and savings are only as accurate as the data used to calculate them. They are not of the “do the same for less” variety, but rather attempt to achieve efficiencies and improve outcomes.”

“A Plan for Moving On” suggests the following improvements:

1. Erie County should get out of the following non-mandated businesses :

*Operating health centers and subsidizing the Erie County Home and ECMC
*Subsidizing Erie Community College
*Providing primary police services to localities
*Providing County Legislators constituent services
*Managing Golf Courses
*Training municipalities’ police
*Directly delivering comprehensive services to meet the needs of Erie County’s older population
*Funding human services programs through discretionary allocations
*Advocating for the inclusion of women in community affairs
*Providing medical laboratory testing services
*Maintaining roads

2: Erie County should improve the delivery of the following mandated services

*Administering Medicaid
*Managing the Holding Center and Correctional Facility
*Directly delivering speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy services to developmentally delayed preschoolers
*Arraigning prisoners
*Providing probation services
*Providing registrar services
*(County Legislature) Hold legislative session in the evening to facilitate “day jobs” of legislators and make the body more accessible to the public; reduce legislator salaries to $22,000; use Legislature’s subpoena power to help the body perform its core functions; remove contractual expenses from the Legislature’s budget; enhance the Legislature’s capacity for budget analysis by reconfiguring its staff into a non-partisan central staff trained in budget, policy and legal analysis.
*Providing auto bureau functions
*(County Executive) Reduce the County Executive’s budget and automate the resolution filing process

3: Erie County should continue the following non-mandated businesses, but with improvements:

*Operating Libraries
*Owning/managing County facilities/buildings
*Purchasing (for county departments/entities)
*Maintaining and operating parks
*Providing support services for county government (mail, telecommunications, printing/copying services, invoice management)
*Funding tourism promotion and conventions sales
*Providing funds to local cultural organizations
*Economic development planning
*Providing medical examiner services
*Assisting veterans and their dependants receive all benefits available to them under federal, state, and local laws
*Providing environmental and bio-terrorism lab services

It is impossible to do justice to “A Plan for Moving On” in one article. To learn more, you can download a complete copy of the study at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership website.

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