Jul 8

2024

Our entitled elected officials

Are elections a substitute for term limits? In Erie County, absolutely not.

Erie County Legislator John Bargnesi recently proposed term limits for Erie County elected officials. Most legislators were cool to the idea and County Executive Mark Poloncarz said last week he’d veto term limits if they landed on his desk. Poloncarz used the tired excuse that elections serve the same purpose. But they don’t.

Paul Wolf of the New York Coalition for Open Government did a tally of county election results from 2001 to 2023. Incumbents won 145 of 154 elections.

“We don’t have competitive elections for Erie County offices and we should,” Wolf wrote county legislators last week. “ What we have instead is a game of elected positions being filled when politicians retire or jump to other offices manipulated by political party bosses.”

He continued: “Of the 11 currently serving Erie County Legislators, 9 of them came into office due to a vacancy created by a legislator leaving. Typically when a legislator leaves office, political party bosses determine who gets appointed to a vacant seat, which allows their choice to run as a sitting legislator for election. Running as a sitting legislator is a huge advantage. Instead of having elections we have coronations.”

As if to prove the point, County Legislator Howard Johnson abruptly resigned Friday to take a job with the Board of Elections. That doesn’t mean an open election for his seat. Rather, the Erie County Democratic Committee will appoint a successor, who will then stand for election as an incumbent.  (Johnson’s new boss at the Board of Elections is party chairman Jeremy Zellner. No conflict of interest there.) 

Wolf, in his email to lawmakers, noted that there hasn’t been an open election for county clerk in 33 years and in the last 64 years we’ve had only two open elections for county comptroller. County executive? The last open election was 17 years ago.

To underscore their sense of entitlement, county Legislators recently voted to raise their annual salaries of $42,588 by $22,412. Never mind that they were already the highest-paid county legislature in the state. Or that the job for most of them is part-time. Legislators are also considering extending their terms from two to four years.

Then again, they’ve got nothing on the Buffalo Common Council, whose members already serve four year terms. Last year, in the face of worsening city finances, they voted themselves a pay raise from $75,000 to $84,472.

Not to be outdone, New York legislators are the highest paid in the nation, pulling down $142,000, plus stipends worth up to $41,500.

Anyone see a pattern?


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Alan Pergament, television critic for The Buffalo News, wrote about our parting of the ways with Channel 2. There wasn’t a whole lot to add beyond what I wrote about last week, but there are a few more morsels involving our move to News 7. 

Kids in Massachusetts get a better education at a lower cost to taxpayers than here in New York. The Empire Center issued a report last week that explains why. In a word: accountability.

It turns out weather forecasts are generally accurate, up to four days out. I remain skeptical.

Apparently, Joe Biden is determined to take us all down with him. (Read the room, Joe.)

A harsh, but I believe to be accurate take on the Supreme Court by James Risen of The Intercept. 

What they yearn for is a nation before integration and civil rights, before women’s rights and reproductive rights, before gay rights, before the modern expansions of free speech and press freedom. Above all, they want a return to a less diverse America, a nation in which white male power was unquestioned. 

He wrote Elvis’ first hit and got screwed. But not by The King. 


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