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New Government Structure

Gaughan Discusses Downsizing Plan with Village Board
By Gary S. Howell
Nov 27, 2007, 19:23
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On Monday night, citizen activist, Kevin Gaughan presented the Lancaster Village Board with his plan to downsize local governments. Gaughan's proposal calls for the elimination of two elected members from the boards of local governments. Of the 45 local governments, the Erie County Legislature, City of Buffalo, Town of Tonawanda, and Village of Depew have already eliminated at least two officials from their boards.

The complete plan is available at TheCost.org .

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Gaughan began by presenting these sobering facts:

- Since 1970, more than 200,000 people moved out of Erie County. "Every hour and forty minutes, someone walks out of this community (Erie County). Not because they want to, but because they have to for lack of opportunity," Gaughan said.

- Since 1970 Erie County lost more than 35,000 private sector jobs.

- Housing stock values are down, "Not just in Buffalo, but in every community in Greater Buffalo," Gaughan said.

- Per capita income level is down. "In the City of Buffalo...there are more residents...who make less than $5,000 a year then make more than $50,000 a year," Gaughan told the Board.

- Erie County lost more young people between the ages of 18 and 34 than any other community in America.

- Erie County is the first community in America to have two of its governments under "Hard" Control Boards.

- Buffalo is the second poorest city in America.

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Gaughan went on to compare the Greater Buffalo area to similar areas in America. He included New York City in the comparison. New York City was not included because of its similarity to Erie County, but because of the relatively small number of elected officials compared to its population.

The areas with similarities to Erie County include Greater Baltimore, Greater Charlotte, and Greater Indianapolis.

The first item examined was population growth since 1970. While the comparable communities all experienced population growth, Greater Buffalo's declined.

- Greater Charlotte's population increased by 397,710
- New York City's by 219,572
- Baltimore's by 81,372
- Indianapolis's by 70,952,
- Buffalo's decreased by 172,198.

Next, Gaughan presented birth rates per thousand.

- Greater Charlotte's birth rate per thousand is 17.5
- New York City - 15.4
- Baltimore - 13.1
- Indianapolis - 12.1
- Buffalo came in last, at 11.3

Gaughan continued with a look at the number of governments in the comparable regions.

- New York City, with a population of 8,115,135 has 1 government
- Greater Baltimore, with a population of 1,670,119, has 3 governments
- Greater Charlotte, with a population of 752,366 has 8 governments
- Greater Indianapolis, with a population of 863,251 has 14 governments
- Greater Buffalo, with a population of 941,293 has 45 governments.

Finally, Gaughan presented the number of Elected Officials within the communities.

- Greater Baltimore has the least, with 95 elected officials
- Charlotte - 135
- Indianapolis - 239
- New York City - 248
- Greater Buffalo leads the pack with 439

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Gaughan went on by comparing the size of local legislative boards to the size of the City of Buffalo's. His report reveals that the highest concentration of elected officials is in the suburbs.

The City of Buffalo has a population of 279,745, with 1 Mayor and 9 Common Council members. The ratio of citizens to legislators is 27,975 to 1.

The average suburban ratio of citizens to legislators is 2,700 to 1.

If Buffalo had the same ratio of citizens to legislators there would be 100 Common Council members.

Based on information at TheCost.org , the Village of Lancaster has a 2005 population of 11,490, with 1 Mayor and six Trustees.

The village's ration of citizens to legislators is 1,641 to 1.

If Buffalo had the same ratio of citizens to legislators there would be 170 Common Council members.

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Gaughan concluded by suggesting that every one of the towns, villages, and cities join the City of Buffalo, the County of Erie, Town of Tonawanda, and Village of Depew and reduce the number of legislators by two.

He admitted that, in some measure, it's a symbolic gesture. But, if carried out it would eliminate 84 elected officials and save between seventeen to eighteen million a year.

Gaughan proposed that the cuts could be made by attrition. The boards have the ability to pass legislation memorializing the elimination of two legislators when they retire.

The legislation would have to be approved by the voters.

"It's do-able," Gaughan said, "in Depew over 80 percent of the voters approved it."

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Next: The Trustees and Taxpayers response

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