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January 19, 2019 - 1:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Robert Bausch, news, bergen, notify, county legislature.

bobbauschsept2018file.jpg

When Bob Bausch joined the County Legislature in 2010 he said he was making at least a four-year commitment to serve. Nine years later, at age 75 and with a new four-year term looming, he thinks it's time to step aside.

Bausch announced today that he's not going to seek reelection this year.

"When I was pushing for the four-year terms, I knew that at 75 I shouldn't run for a four-year term," Bausch said. "I'm in good health but I'm 75. There's no denying it."

Bausch editorialized and lobbied in support of staggered four-year terms for the county legislative members, replacing a system that had all nine members up for election every two years. County voters approved the reform in November.

Before joining the Legislature, he served as a Village of Bergen trustee for eight years and for 10 years before that, he was on Bergen's Zoning Appeals Board.

He became chairman of the County Legislature in 2017.

Once his term is up at the end of this year, after 27 years in either elected or appointed office, Bausch said he will have plenty to do to keep himself busy. He will continue to serve on the boards of community groups. He also has family spread across the country from Philadelphia to San Jose, Calif., and so will travel occasionally to see them.

"There are still things I would like to get done but I should step aside," Bausch said.

Photo: File photo.

October 21, 2018 - 10:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news.

Statement from Genesee County Legislature Chairman Bob Bausch:

November 6th is Election Day. On the ballot is a proposal to change the term of office for county legislators from two to four years. This proposal is widely supported and now the voters are being asked for their support.

In 1967, the voters of Genesee County approved a change in the format of county government from a Board of Supervisors to a County Legislature. The term of office for the legislators was set at two years to mirror the terms of town supervisors, village mayors, town council and village board members as well as other locally elected officials.

In the last 51 years much has changed including extending the terms for many locally elected officials from two to four years. This is due to the breadth of issues and the complexity of local government; plus ever expanding mandates from state and federal governments. During this time, county legislators’ terms have remained at two years to the detriment of the county.

A few examples of the changes in county government over the last 50-plus years would be the addition of Genesee Community College, the Public Defender Office, the Genesee County Parks, the Medicaid program, Office for the Aging, countywide water program, plus numerous other programs that were initiated locally but more often mandated by the state.

During this same period, the county government budget has expanded from $9 to $158 million. Further complicating county finances is the state’s imposed property tax cap with severe penalties to counties if they exceed the tax cap.

The size and complexity of county government creates many challenges for legislators and a two-year term is not adequate to become an effective legislator. Many towns and villages have acknowledged this problem and voters have approved lengthening terms to four years. To become reasonably proficient on county issues is barely possible in two years as any newly elected legislator can attest.

An issue that all governments are facing is finding local candidates for public offices. During the past election cycles for the nine legislative seats, on average only one district seat was contested in either a primary or general election. There are many reasons fewer citizens choose not to seek elected office; the requirement to campaign every two years is among those reasons.

The proposal, if approved by the voters, would authorize staggered four-year terms, i.e.: four legislator districts would be up in one year, and two years later the other five districts would be up for election. This would allow better continuity on the legislature. Also, minority political parties and other interested organizations would be better able to concentrate their efforts.

The county legislature commissioned two countywide studies of the issue over the years, with bipartisan groups recommending an increase in term length to four years. Now it is up to the Genesee County voters, so please give this proposal your serious consideration. The proposal will appear on the back of the paper ballot on Election Day.

July 3, 2018 - 6:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news, notify.

Eight years ago voters turned down a proposal to shift the years served in a single term for a county legislator from two years to four but the idea has resurfaced again and the county is scheduling a public hearing on the proposal for 5:30 p.m., Aug. 8, in the Old Courthouse.

The proposed change in the local law would take effect with the 2019 election and have four current members of the legislature run for four-year terms and five would run for two-year terms; then in 2021, those five final two-year term seats would become four-year terms in that election. Thus, the terms of legislators would be staggered instead of all nine members running at once.

That, said Marianne Clattenburg, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, raises the possibility that at some point in the future a majority of the legislature could consist of all new members with few experienced members.

"There's a lot to learn in this job," Clattenburg said.

Members on Monday shared a common experience: Voters surprised that somebody they seemingly just voted for coming around and asking for petition signatures for office.

"I know," Clattenberg said, "I’ll be passing out petitions and they’ll say, ‘what are you doing?’ and I’ll say, ‘I have to run again.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well, it’s only two years.’ ‘It is?’ They just sometimes automatically assume we’re like the City Council."

Clattenberg said the County Legislature is the last elected body in the county with two-year terms.

Legislator Shelly Stein agreed.

"Whenever I’m at people’s doors with petitions they say, ‘why are you here again?’ " Stein said. "It really is the fact that they expect our terms to mirror everybody else’s in the county.”

It's up to voters to change the local law that governs the length of terms for legislators, Legislator Andrew Young noted, and said, "I think it just makes sense."

At the public hearing in 2010, two people spoke in favor of the change and two against, including former Legislator John Sackett.

"I believe that you cannot have representative government by having longer terms of office," Sackett said.

The proposal failed among voters, however, despite getting popular support in The Batavian's admittedly unscientific online polls. The Batavian ran three polls about the topic (one, two, three).

January 4, 2018 - 4:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, genesee county, news.

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Gary Maha, Gordon Dibble, and John Hilchey, the three newest members of the Genesee County Legislature, along with the rest of the Legislature, took their oaths of office Wednesday night prior to the Legislature's organizational meeting at the Old Courthouse.

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Robert Bausch, representing Elba, Byron, and Bergen, was chosen to chair the Legislature.

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From left, Pam LaGrou, clerk to the legislators, Gary Maha, Gordon Dibble, Shelly Stein, Andrew Young, Bob Bausch, John Deleo, Marianne Clattenburg, Gregg Torrey, John Hilchey, and County Manager Jay Gsell.

November 1, 2017 - 10:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news, batavia.

There will be local elections Nov. 7. 

The one contested race for County Legislature is in District 9 where retired Sheriff Gary Maha is challenging incumbent Ed DeJaneiro. We asked each candidate to answer five questions. Below are their verbatim responses.

Q&A with Ed DeJaneiro

If elected, what’s your #1 priority? To insist on maintaining the County Sharing of Sales Tax with the City of Batavia as agreed 16 years ago with the Water Agreement. Also if and when the County is faced with the decision to alter or build a County Jail that we explore all possible cost alternatives to include a joint jail facility with another county. State consolidation incentives may be available. We must continue to improve infrastructure roads and bridges and provide public water to county residents and businesses. We need to maintain a level property tax (stay under the 2% tax cap) and use proceeds from the sale of the nursing home if needed.

What can you do if elected to help improve the business climate
in Genesee County?
Continue to support GCEDC efforts and promote our shovel-ready industrial sites for business to move here and create jobs. Maintain a friendly governmental approach with businesses and take advantage of State and Federal incentives.

What services currently provided by the County should be cut or eliminated, if any? How and why? We need to aggressively investigate consolidation of services where ever possible and provide the current county services in a more efficient matter.

What business, leadership, or economic training and experience to you have that make you more qualified for a job on the Legislature over your opponent? I have served as a City Councilperson for 10 years, Legislator for 16 years. I have worked in private business for 38 years of which as a manager of a savings and loan for five years and as an account manager in the supply distribution industry for 33 years. I manage the accounts for over 100 small businesses in Western New York. I also have a graduate degree in Public Administration.

What one, two, or three books first published within the past 250 years has most influenced your thinking about society and government? Miracle at St. Anna, Rediscover Catholicism, The Seventh Step, My Shadow Ran Fast.

Q&A with Gary Maha:

If elected, what’s your # 1 priority? My # 1 priority is keeping taxes low and improving the quality of life in the City of Batavia and Genesee County. I would also like feedback from the residents of Wards 4 & 5 as what they perceive as priorities.

What can you do, if elected, to help improve the business climate in Genesee County? Improvement of the business climate in Genesee County must be a collaborative effort among all involved agencies, organizations, governments and the community. Including, but not limited to: Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), Batavia Business Improvement District (BID), Genesee County Legislature, Batavia City Council, County Manager, City Manager and members of the community. As a County Legislator, I would encourage such collaboration and/or facilitate such collaboration. Keeping property taxes under control is essential to improving the business climate in Genesee County and as Legislator; this would be my primary goal.

What services currently provided by the County should be cut or eliminated, if any? How and why? At this time I am not recommending any services currently provided by the County be cut or eliminated. If elected, I intend to meet with every department head to get an in-depth review of the programs and services offered and then formulate a position to determine greater efficiencies.  County departments and their programs and services need to be reviewed and evaluated annually for effectiveness and if they are cost-effective.

What business, leadership, or economic training and experience do you have that make you more qualified for a job on the Legislature over your opponent? I am in a unique position as a candidate for the County Legislature as I have served this community as their Sheriff for 29 years, overseeing a total of approximately 130 employees and an approximate 13 million dollar budget. I am familiar with County government and its operations. If elected to the County Legislature, my experience as a department head would be an asset to the residents of Wards 4 & 5 and the Genesee County Legislature. I have held leadership roles locally, in New York State and nationally. I was Past Chair of the Genesee County Traffic Safety Board; Past Chair of the Genesee County Criminal Justice Advisory Council; Past President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association; Past Chair of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association’s Executive Committee, Past Vice-chair of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s Criminal Justice Information Systems/Technology Committee, and Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Batavia. I am a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy, Quantico, VA where I received training in leadership, decision making, and management. I have also attended numerous courses and training seminars related to personnel management, homeland security, counterterrorism, incident command system, media relations, and law enforcement liability. This training and experience is an asset to my qualifications as a candidate for the Genesee County Legislature.

I am a lifelong resident of Genesee County and have been a resident of Vernon Avenue in the City of Batavia for almost 50 years. I have been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Batavia for 29 years, serving the children of our community. I am a U.S. Army Veteran and have received numerous awards and accolades while serving as Sheriff of Genesee County. My wife, Susan, and I have raised our two daughters in Batavia and we care deeply for this community.

I serve as a member of Genesee Community College’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board and previously served as a member of Genesee Community College’s Housing and Ventures Committee. I also served as a member of the New York State Executive Committee on Counterterrorism, the New York State Local Law Enforcement Accreditation Council (Governor’s appointment), the New York State Interoperable & Emergency Communications Board (Governor’s appointment), and the National Sheriffs’ Association Homeland Security Committee. 

I feel my vast experience and training over the years makes me more qualified for the position of County Legislator than my opponent. I have served the people of Genesee County for my entire career and hope to continue that service as your County Legislator.

What one, two or three books first published within the past 250 years has most influenced your thinking about society and government? I recently read the book entitled “The Swamp” by Eric Bolling which discusses corruption and cronyism in Washington, DC. It was stated that cronyism involving sex, bribery, blackmail and backroom deals contradict public policies and cost taxpayers millions and billions of dollars. Personally, this is very disturbing to me being a taxpayer and the fact that I taught ethics for several years to new Sheriffs at the New Sheriffs School sponsored by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association.

I have also read several books pertaining to corruption over the years within the NYPD and books pertaining to leadership including “Leadership Under Fire” by Brigadier General Nick Halley and “Vigilance” by former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

June 18, 2015 - 4:42pm

The Genesee County Legislature objected to a salary increase in the proposed union contract with the Deputy Sheriff's Association at the Ways and Means Committee meeting Wednesday night.

The proposed contract called for a 7.5-percent salary increase over three years. County officials said the total cost of deputy salaries for three years would be more than $390,000. The contract would have covered 46 employees.

For the legislature to make a decision, Jay Gsell, county manager, provided information on deputy union contracts in adjoining counties and all of their salary increases were lower. According to county officials, the salary increases stated in deputy contracts in Orleans County and Livingston County were 2 percent for two years.

"I think based on the numbers involved and what it's going to cost the county I think it's excessive," Legislature Chair Raymond Cianfrini said. "If this contract came from any other union in the county, I would have had the same objection."

The legislature recently approved a management salary schedule for an average 1-percent increase for five years in an attempt to bring nonunion employees in line with what they pay union employees. According to Cianfrini, if the legislature approved the Deputy Sheriff's Association contract it would be unfair to other management employees.

Cianfrini hopes to resolve the contract issue with the Deputy Sheriff's Association as soon as possible.

January 23, 2015 - 2:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature.

County government involves a $140 million budget, more than 700 employees in 27 departments, guided by a myriad of state and local laws, a tiered committee and commission structure and covering topics as diverse as criminal justice, mental health, roads and bridges and government assistance programs.

It would be impossible for any new member of the Genesee County Legislature to "hit the ground running."

The shared wisdom among local government observers is it takes at least a year to get even a basic knowledge of how the county operates.

With that in mind, the Legislature's newest member, Darien's Mike Davis, is taking a measured approach to learning his new job.

He's attending every committee meeting he can, making the rounds to various county departments and listening and reading.

"I need to learn what it's all about," Davis said. "I need to go to all of them (committee meetings) right now to understand the breadth of what's going on. Jay (Gsell, county manager) has taken me to on maybe a one-third tour of the county departments to meet the department heads and employees, and I'll continue to do that. We're going to schedule another one next week. I'll try to see who all these people are -- some 700 employees -- and figure out who does what and where."

Davis was a town justice in Darien and he said he's taking the same approach he did when first appointed to the bench: work hard and learn.

"I think I use common sense, and that's how I'm going to approach this," Davis said.

Davis's first committee assignment is Human Services, taking the slot once filled by Annie Lawrence, who is now supervisor in the Town of Pembroke.

Appointed to the office, he'll run for election in November.

January 8, 2015 - 10:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, pembroke, Darien.

A Town of Darien justice has been tapped to become the newest member of the Genesee County Legislature.

Michael Davis, a town justice for about five years and employee of the Upstate Niagara Milk Cooperative, will replace Annie Lawrence, who resigned to become Town of Pembroke supervisor.

County Republicans selected Davis to fill the vacant seat -- which must be filled under county law by a person from the same party as the person who left the seat -- and Wednesday, the Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to recommend the appointment to the full legislature.

The legislative vote is expected at the start of its meeting next week and Davis would be sworn into office immediately. 

Before then, Davis is expected to resign as town justice.

The committee also reappointed Lori Longhany as the Democratic Party's commissioner on the Board of Elections.

Also on Wednesday, the committee approved the hiring of Ruth Spink as director of the Office for the Aging, who will replace Pamela Whitmore. Whitmore is retiring at the end of the month.

June 12, 2014 - 1:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, county legislature, dairy queen.

In honor of Dairy Month, the Genesee County Legislature presented Dairy Princess Kayla Wormuth with a proclamation recognizing the contribution dairy makes to the local economy and the nutrition of people. Legislator Shelly Stein, right, presented the resolution. Also participating were dairy ambassadors Becca Slattery and Mary Sweeney, and Georgia Luft, dairy maid.

 

April 1, 2014 - 11:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature.

Amid the piles of papers on the glass-topped conference table in the Old Courthouse yesterday were shiny new iPad Airs.

Each member of the Legislature had one and with varying degrees of success were trying to adjust to reading their agenda and background material on the Gorilla Glass screens. Some members found everything they needed on the tablets. Others still sifted through papers.

It's going to be an adjustment, Chairman Ray Cianfrini said, as the Legislature tries to go paperless. The county won't be able to quit paper cold turkey.

"It's new. We're learning," Cianfrini said. "Everything I'm seeing, though, this is going to transform the way we do business and it will save money. I think it's great. I've been advocating for us to go paperless since I first came on the Legislature when I saw how much paper we generate."

According to Cianfrini, the county spends $35,000 a year on printing agendas and back-up material for the nine members of the Legislature. They go through 1,098 cartons of paper a year, printing on more than five million sheets of paper.

The iPads should eventually eliminate all most all of that paper, Cianfrini said.

Newer members of the Legislature such as Greg Torrey, above with Bob Bausch, and Andrew Young, acted a bit as mentors during the Human Service Committee meeting, helping other members learn how to use their new iPads. Young recommended members change a setting so the iPads wouldn't go to sleep after two minutes of not being touched (requiring a new login to see the screen). Torrey showed Bausch how to access something on the iPad.

"We have an excellent working group," Young said. "From a personal perspective, this is all new to me over the last three months and I've had more than my share of help, so if I can help somebody change the time on their iPad, it's a bit of a payback."

Bausch said there is a learning curve and adjustment, but he also thinks the switch is necessary.

"We don't have any choice," Bausch said. "We have to go this direction just because of the amount of paper we push every week. There's just some fine-tuning to work on managing it."

The one concern Bausch has is the perception of speakers during committee meetings. Will they still feel Legislators are paying attention to them when they've all got computers open in front of them?

"It's one thing when you've got a pile and you glance down and glance back up," Bausch said. "It's a different perception than when you're looking at a computer screen. For our regular visitors who come in only once or twice a year I want to make sure they feel comfortable and make sure we don't look like a bunch of geeks sitting there messing with our computers."

Cianfrini shares that concern and said it's one of the things Legislators will need to learn to manage.

"Remember, this is all new to us," Cianfrini said. "We're just learning as we go. I'm just waiting for the time I can say, 'we made it. We're paperless.' "

January 15, 2014 - 8:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, Oakfield, Ray Cianfrini.

The Ray Cinanfrini era of the Genesee County Legislature has officially begun and the lifelong Oakfield resident certainly has some plans to try and make an impact.

In the top drawer of the desk in his county office Cianfrini keeps a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece paper filled from top to bottom with ideas he would like to pursue.

Whether any of them are ever brought forward, pan out or receive the support of the other eight members of the county's legislative body, only time will tell.

"I think this job is going to be a challenge," Cianfrini said. "We have a group of legislators who are dedicated. We have some new members who are young and energetic. I'm excited, but I'm also a little scared. Whatever happens, I'm going to give it everything I've got to ensure the county is in as good of shape, if not better, than when I took over."

Cianfrini, who served seven years as the mayor in Oakfield before being elected to the Legislature in 2007, replaces Mary Pat Hancock, who held the chair for 13 years.

Hancock's former office has been cleared of its mementos, photos and paintings. The walls are now bare. Since taking over the job, Cianfrini said, he simply hasn't had time to deal with decorations.

"I used to say I was a full-time attorney and a part-time legislator," Cianfrini said. "I think the roles have been reversed right now."

The job will be daunting, no doubt, in a time when state government is more and more burdensome, infrastructure is aging and the county struggles to find ways to grow its economic base, there's nothing easy about leading a whole county.

Cianfrini is an unabashed booster of Genesee County, but he's also more than aware of the problems we face.

"I don't like the idea that we might lose industry," Cianfrini said. "I hope we're able to maintain the high level of active, large employers we have. Agriculture, of course is a big industry for us and we have the two new yogurt plants, so I'm hoping our dairies will be around for a long time. If anything scares me, I would hope crime does not seep into Genesee County. I know we have crime, but I hope we don't get the overflow of crime that seems more prevelent in the larger cities around us. And I worry about whether our children will have a place to find jobs locally."

That focus on jobs and industry is one reason Cianfrini appointed himself as the Legislature's representative on the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board.

While Cianfrini has gained a reputation as something of a GCEDC critic at a time when many local residents worried about seeming excesses in the agency, Cianfrini said his position about the IDA is often misunderstood.

"My criticism in the past has been focused on their operations, their internal operations, in particular their compensation for employees," Cianfrini said. "I've never criticized the GCEDC in their performance. I think they do a bang-up job. I think they're intelligent and hard-working people. I'm not in there with an agenda. I'm not there to impose on them any of my particular feelings. I'm there to learn more about the GCEDC. I'm there to help, if I can."

Top on Cianfrini's agenda is assisting the development of the STAMP (Science, Technology & Advanced Manufacturing Park) project in Alabama, which is part of his district.

"I'm a huge supporter of STAMP," Cianfrini said. "It's a transformational project that's going to be a tremendous economic boost for Genesee County."

It's in the county's best interest, Cianfrini believes, for GCEDC to succeed in attracting new business and growing local industries and he's supportive of those goals.

"I know this may sound crazy, but I'm going to be there rooting for them to achieve their goals and create new opportunities for economic development."

At the same time, he said, he's mindful of his responsibility to provide both oversight and communication about GCEDC activities for the rest of the Legislature.

"I am there as the only representative of the county Legislature, so I will scrutinize what goes on. If there's issues that I think need to be addressed, I'll bring those back to the Legislature," Cianfrini said. "I did not put myself on the board soley for the purpose of changing the way in which they do business. I'm there to learn. I'm there to offer any assistance I can, but if there's something I don't think is right, I'll be, as most people know, the first person to bring that to the attention of the Legislature."

The 68-year-old Cianfrini graduated from Oakfield-Alabama High School in 1963. His undergrad degree is from the University at Albany and he was drafted into the Army after his first year in law school. Following a two-year hitch, Cianfrini completed his law degree in 1972 and moved back to Oakfield.

He has practiced law in Oakfield for 42 years.

He's married. His wife, Karen, is a nurse at UMMC. They have three children.

Their oldest son, Michael, 39, is also an attorney. He and his wife, Melissa, worked for big law firms in Pittsburgh, but decided they wanted to move to Oakfield to practice law and joined Cianfrini's law firm more than 10 years ago. Late in 2013, Michael Cianfrini was appointed deputy county clerk. Melissa Cianfrini is in her third year as an assistant district attorney.

Daughter Christy Connor is an epidemiologist in San Diego. She and her husband have three children.

The Cianfrini's youngest son, Steve, 33, served eight years in the Army as a combat helicopter pilot, with an 18-month tour in Iraq, where his helicopter was once shot down, and a tour that included heavy combant in Iraq. In search of a more tranquil life, Steve left the Army not long ago and took a job in Grand Rapids, Mich., as a postal carrier.

Not too many months ago, when asked about the anticipated vacancy in the Legislature's chair, Cianfrini demurred, expressed little interest.

That changed, he said, when Annie Lawrence, the more senior Republican on the Legislature, made it clear to her colleagues that she didn't want the job. 

Cianfrini decided he was up for the challenge and that he could make the time to do the job right.

"The way I look at it, there was county government for 200 years before I came in and there will be county government, hopefully, for 200 years after I leave," Cianfrini said. "I just want to make sure while I'm here at the helm that government runs efficiently at the lowest cost."

The job is important, Cianfrini said, because Genesee County is important.

"I just love Genesee County," Cianfrini said. "I think anybody who has been born here has difficulty giving it up. We have two major metro areas around us. If we want to go to a football game, if we want to go to the opera, or to a show or shopping, we have it. The beauty is, we've got the serenity of Genesee County. It's a beautiful area. It's a great place to raise children. I think the school systems are excellent. Why give that up to go someplace where you don't know what you're getting into?"

To help make this an even better place to live, there are some ideas Cianfrini would like to pursue.

For example, he thinks the Legislature should take a look at public safety in county-run buildings.  He wants to, maybe, propose opening up the County Park in Bethany to bow hunters during bow season. That would generate revenue for the county and also help deal with the exploding deer population in the park. Perhaps, he said, the county government should go paperless, with Legislators carrying around iPads instead of binders and folders. He would like to look at a public-private partnership to build more hangars at the Genesee County Airport.

That's just a part of the list he keeps in the top drawer of his desk.

He also anticipates working out an agreement with the GCEDC that would lessen the burden on taxpayers to help support the agency.

Last year, the county supplemented GCEDC's revenue (which comes mostly from fees paid by businesses that use the agency's services) with a $215,000 expenditure. 

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, has always argued that the county government needs "skin in the game" to prove to site locators that economic development is supported in Genesee County, and that the money helps GCEDC balance its books.

Cianfrini has another approach he would like to try and be thinks just might fly.

"I've talked with GCEDC and they're willing to talk now about the possibility of working out a formula that might minimize the county's contribution," Cianfrini said. "At times when their cash flow is good, we don't pay as much taxpayer money to support them, but on the other hand, when maybe money is tight, or revenue is drying up, maybe we increase our contribution rather than have a fixed amount. They seem willing to talk about adjusting that payment."

Now that Cianfrini has a more comprehensive responsibility in Genesee County than just representing one district, or just chairing one committee, he's working hard to get to know the rest of the county's business, learning as much as he can as quickly as he can about all of the county's departments.

He sees his role as a facilitator to develop and implement policy, and that means he needs to really understand the nuts and bolts of county government.

"I kind of look at it like this," Cianfrini said. "From a team perspecitve, we're like a football team. The people are the owners of the team. The taxpayers are the owners. The Legislature, we are kind of the board of directors to set the policy for the team. Jay Gsell, our county manager, is kind of the general manager of the team. Our department heads, they're the coaches. They're the ones working with the players. The players are the employees. I'm seeing my job as the chairman of the Legislature as one to help move policy along and to maybe offer some fresh ideas."

Asked if he thinks his new job makes him one of the more powerful people in Genesee County, Cianfrini said, no, not really.

"I think I can influence certain things, what things will come before the Legislature," Cianfrini said. "I think I can influence the direction we may be going in. If that means power, so be it, but I don't think of it as a powerful job. I don't want power. I don't seek power. I want efficiency and I want results. That's where I'm coming from."

November 12, 2013 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, Elections, Le Roy.

A one-vote margin was all the difference needed to elect Michael Welsh town justice in Le Roy.

He beat Scott McCumskey 817-816, according to the Genesee County Elections Commission, which completed counting absentee ballots from last week's election.

In the other closely watched and tight race, incumbent Ed DeJanerio held onto his 21-vote margin over challenger Bob Bialkowski for a 405-372 victory.

November 6, 2013 - 12:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, election, county legislature.

With only 21 votes separating the two candidates for the District 9 seat on the County Legislature and 100 absentee ballots yet to be counted, neither incumbent Ed Dejanerio nor challenger Bob Bialkowski were interested in predicting the outcome of the race.

"I'm in the minority and who knows," Dejanerio said, acknowledging his role as the sole Democrat on the Legislature as well as the slight registration advantage for the GOP in District 9. "I do my best and that's all I can do."

Both candidates worked hard, they said of each other, and presented a stiff challenge throughout the campaign.

The unofficial tally has Dejanerio up 362 to 341.

Dejanerio is simply hard to beat, Bialkowski said.

"There's a lot of Democrats in the district," Bialkowski said. "Ed's been there a long time. Ed's a likable sort of guy. People like Ed. I'm pleased I've done as well as I have. Other people have tried running against Ed but have never done so well."

City GOP Chairman Matt Landers agreed.

"It's hard to beat an incumbent," Landers said. "Ed's been there a long time. He's beaten Republicans in the past. Bob worked really hard and we'll see how it breaks."

Things broke better for the GOP in the other three contested Legislature races.

Shelly Stein beat Earl Funderburk 1087 to 427 in District 5. Gregg Torrey beat incumbant Esther Leadley, a Republic who didn't get her party's nomination, 706 to 373, and the race was apparently made closer by the presence of a Libertarian on the ballot. Marianne Clattenburg beat Bill Fava 385 to 271 with Bob Brown picking up 82 votes.

"Bob did hurt us," Landers said. "We were worried that he would peel off Republican votes and it was relatively close between Marianne and the Democrat."

None of the big issues facing the County Legislature seemed to play a role in voters' decisions, based on the feedback candidates were getting while walking precincts. Voters rarely mentioned the nursing home, the Genesee County Economic Development Center, mandates, or hiring more jail guards.

People were concerned about taxes, but in the District 9 race, there isn't much difference on the issue between Dejanerio and Bialkowski.

"People are against any kind of property tax increase," Bialkowski said. "People in the city are hard pressed right now and when they hear that they're going to have a public hearing on going over the tax cap, that doesn't sit well with people. It doesn't sit well with me."

Top photo: Ed Dejanerio, city council candidate Diana Kastenbaum with Pat Burke at O'Lacy's while awaiting election results.

Matt Landers congratulates Gregg Torrey on his District 6 victory.

June 19, 2013 - 3:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, county legislature, GCEDC.

It's not every year that a local election has at least one issue that might sway voters. With all the attention garnered by the Genesee County Economic Development Center since the last County Legislature election, this November the opinions candidates hold on GCEDC funding and its policies might be an important issue for voters. We thought it a worthwhile public service to get candidates on the record on this issue as soon as they were declared candidates.

In posing the questions to the GOP candidates -- the first group to declare -- we found not all of the candidates agreed with that assessment.

We received objections to answering questions along the lines that it was too soon; wait until the election is closer; "my position is already well known"; and, most surprising, that candidates shouldn't have to answer questions before all of the candidates are declared.

There is apparently some concern that since there's still weeks left for candidates to declare, some candidates thought they shouldn't be asked policy questions until after the filing deadlines. None of the candidates explicitly stated that they fear their answers might prompt another candidate to enter the race. They did express concern that they would be sharing opinions that would be read by potential opponents before those opponents needed to answer the questions.

That's not a line of thinking The Batavian finds terribly persuasive. Any candidate should be willing to speak openly and publicly about their positions without fear of the political repercussions. If an opinion might spur another candidate to enter the race, well, then, that's good for democracy. If a candidate lacks sufficient confidence in a position that it will be easily targeted by opposition, then perhaps he or she should reconsider that position.

The filing deadlines are July 11 for candidates running on an established party line, and Aug. 20 for a candidate running as an independent (creating his or her own party line).

Below are the answers to our three GCEDC-related questions we received from six of the declared Republican candidates, the three declared Democrats and the lone independent to enter the race so far. After the three questions are statements we received from the three candidates who did not answer the questions. 

Question 1: Traditionally, there has been an item in the county budget to transfer money to GCEDC to assist funding the operations of the agency. Last year,  GCEDC received $215,000 in the county budget. Do you support continuing this fund transfer to GCEDC, or should it be eliminated or modified?

Shelley Stein, incumbent, Dictrict 5: The Genesee County Legislature has supported GCEDC at approximately 20% of the GCEDC 2013 approved budget. Moving forward I would support same level of funding to provide for foundational costs of GCEDC operations. Eighty percent of GCEDC’s budget must be derived from providing services and collecting fees for services from business community, grants and contractual annuity payments, not taxpayer dollars. Additionally, LeRoy Business Council and small businesses located in LeRoy are very supportive of the foundational funding of the GCEDC.

Earl Funderburk, challenger, District 5: I do not support the continuation of county budget funds to GCEDC. They have millions of dollars from fees and no longer require funds from the county.

Esther Leadley, incumbent, District 6: Every year the upcoming County budget gets several months of intense scrutiny – by the whole legislature, not just a committee. GCEDC’s funding request is always included in that scrutiny. Please note that State and Federal mandates continually erode the County legislators’ ability to provide a quality of life that Genesee County residents have come to expect.

We legislators have already begun general discussions about the 2014 budget. As we go forward, I am confident GCEDC’s funding request, when it is received, will be one of the topics of discussion. I will weigh all input and make my decision at that time.

Please also note that companies considering making a significant investment in Genesee County want concrete evidence that the County’s leadership has financial “skin in the game.”

Gregg Torrey, challenger (GOP endorsed), District 6: Every item included in the County budget needs be evaluated and that includes the funding which assists the operations of the GCEDC. With the increasing pressure put on County Government by State and Federal unfunded mandates each department must justify its funding request.

I was encouraged to see that the incentive compensation system at the GCEDC was eliminated last year. I am now more confident that the funding is directed to the intended purpose of supporting the economic development mission for the County.

With that being said, the EDC has shown a tremendous return on investment for the County and makes the County money while its funding is only a very small portion of the overall budget (under 1%). The County funding also shows that we are committed to investing in ourselves and the County’s support of the EDC’s efforts which include leveraging other State and Federal money. This support of the GCEDC does not go unnoticed during the attraction process when potential companies are considering bringing investment into our community.

Marianne Clattenburg, incumbent, District 8: My position on this issue is well documented and on the record. This was my first budget vote as a new legislator and I took the opportunity to voice the concerns that many of my constituents have expressed regarding GCEDC funding.  Many opposed the salary and bonus structure of the organization. My position is that public employees who enjoy the benefits of a NYS retirement should not receive bonuses. The second reason I did not support the funding was that I wanted to send a strong message to the GCEDC that redevelopment must also become a priority of the organization. I represent the City of Batavia. We have needs and issues that are different than those of the rural towns around us. If the GCEDC is going to work as the county’s public benefit corporation dedicated to development, then it must strive to improve all areas of the county. I will dedicate my second term to working with the organization to see that this is done. My future support would be contingent upon the organization's willingness to work toward the goals of redevelopment, particularly in the City of Batavia.

William Fava, challenger, District 8: I would support a modification of the amount transferred from Genesee County to the GCEDC Agency. Originally, the agency needed the start up fund support, but now the agency has been successful in meeting yearly goals. The Agency has increased internal manpower to parallel anticipated growth and created sub organizations to minimize potential legal problems for Genesee County. In addition, the Agency continues to look forward (to) bringing in more business growth opportunities to the area…from all points of view, this State/County endeavor appears to be a success for the County. Modifications should be appropriate over the next few budget cycles to bring the annual fund down to a more reasonable amount. In doing this, the Agency can continue to document County support in any advertisement to a potential customer. The appearance of “Lack of County Support” has been mentioned many times during previous discussions concerning a decrease in funding…this is  simply a reduction, not an elimination of the fund. A modification would be a win-win solution for the Agency and the County taxpayer.

Ed deJaneiro, incumbent, District 9: It now appears that the GCEDC finances are strong enough to continue without a County contribution.

Bob Bialkowski, challenger, District 9: I am very prudent when it comes to spending tax dollars so I would insist on a complete accounting of this expenditure. The way the state has the EDCs set up is that if you want to participate you have to pay. This means that if the county doesn’t support the GCEDC we won’t be considered for the grants the EDC receives, so yes I would vote to continue this support. Genesee County has done very well for itself considering that in a recent survey New York State placed 49th in economic development out of 50, but here we have seen tremendous growth. Last week Texas announced that it was aggressively marketing for New York businesses to move there. They have no state tax. New York needs to learn to treat all business the same and discontinue making special deals.

Andrew Young, candidate, District 4: Yes, I support the County investing in its goal of creating jobs, promoting business capital investment (which converts to tax base) and keeping our kids in our community.

Frank Ferrando, incumbent, District 7: As you indicated, the $215,000, or an amount similar, has been transferred to the GCEDC for several years. It’s not new. What I believe was disturbing to most local citizens was the bonus pay model used by the GCEDC with the assumption that the subsidy supported the bonuses. I and two colleagues on the Legislature voted against last year’s budget in objection to that practice. Bonuses are no longer a part of the GCEDC’s compensation practice. This year I will vote for the subsidy if the GCEDC Board presents to the Legislature a detailed description of a specific project the subsidy will be used to support. A demonstration of support by the County is important and it represents about .1 percent of our overall budget.

More after the jump. Click on the headline to read more.

June 8, 2013 - 8:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, county legislature, alexander, Pavilion, Bethany.

It smarted, Esther Leadley, when she didn't get the GOP's endorsement for the District 6 seat on the Genesee County Legislature.

The incumbent legislator vowed not to run a primary against the endorsed candidate, Greg Torrey, but that doesn't mean she will give up her seat without a fight.

Leadley announced today that she is running in November's general election.

"I am challenging the endorsed candidate for the District 6 seat on the Genesee County Legislature," Leadley said. "District 6 consists of the towns of Alexander (which includes the Village of Alexander), Bethany and Pavilion. I believe my experience on the Legislature and knowledge of the district and county are of considerable value to District 6 and all residents of the county."

It's been a challenge, Leadley said, to learn the ins-and-outs of running as an independent candidate.

"It smarted when I wasn't endorsed but I never lost my footing and my integrity is intact," Leadley said. "It took several weeks to decide what to do with what had been handed to me.  The outcome of this challenge will be decided at the polls in November."

Leadley also said running primary elections add to county expense and so it's better to run in the general election if she wants to retain her seat.

The new voting machines create an enormous cost because they have to be moved from and back to the controlled storage space," Leadley said. "Staffing at the polls and paper ballots add to the costs. District 6 taxpayers should not have to pay for a political disagreement. The County Board of Elections also sustains large expenses for a primary. Indirectly, those costs come out of taxpayers' pockets at the County level as well. In effect, District 6 taxpayers would pay twice for a primary. I would be irresponsible if I were to force a primary."

November 3, 2011 - 9:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in election, county legislature.

We've asked each of the candidates in the city and county legislature races to answer a couple of questions regarding why they're running and what they hope to accomplish if elected. Election Day is Tuesday.

Here's the response from Frank Ferrando, candidate for District 7, Genesee County Legislature:

The past 10 years on Batavia’s City Council taught me how to contribute and participate in the challenges facing the citizens of our community.  Working as a team was not always the process followed by council. The late 1990s and the early years of the new century were, most would agree, very dysfunctional. The years I’ve been involved have seen the council become much more focused and willing to work as a team. It was great to be a part of that transformation. I understand the commitment and dedication necessary to create a positive and constructive environment so problems can be solved and initiatives achieved. I’m well prepared to work as a county legislator.

I believe the key issue facing the legislature at this time (and there are several major challenges) is mandate relief. Working with my colleagues, if elected, to relieve our citizens from the burden of these state expenses, will be a priority. New York State is the only state in our union that transfers 25 percent of the cost for Medicaid to the county. In other states, 50 percent of these costs are covered by the federal government and the remaining 50 percent by the state.

Something has to be done to relieve Genesee County of this burden, so that local needs can be achieved while holding taxes to a reasonable level. At this time a significant percentage of the county’s budget is mandated, leaving few options for local needs and expectations.  Chairperson Mary Pat Hancock presented an excellent breakdown of this issue in her latest State of the County address.

October 5, 2011 - 11:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, mandate relief.

At a time when protests against a broken system are spreading across the land, Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature, is taking a stand of her own.

At Wednesday's Ways and Means Committee meeting, Hancock voted no on a resolution that the legislature must surely pass or face consequences from the Albany bureaucracy.

Resolution 11 authorizes the country treasurer to transfer funds from various budget lines -- including sales tax money set aside to help deal with the county's aging and crumbling infrastructure -- to pay for a state mandated increase in payments to healthcare providers for pre-kindergarten and early intervention programs for children covered by Medicaid.

The increase in fees is retroactive over the past four years.

"We certainly don’t have the money to go back four years, in other budgets, and come up with the money," Hancock said.

Vexing Hancock more is the fact that for these same types of social service programs, the state is eight, nine and even 10 months behind in reimbursing the county for Medicaid services -- a debt that now exceeds $1.7 million.

"Because of this, we have a shortage of cash and an inability to pay," Hancock said. "Now, we must go into the 1-percent sales tax, which is supposed to be for things like roads and bridges, so of course, I feel righteous indignation. It isn’t anger. I feel that this is unjust in every possible way."

Ways and Means Chairman Hollis Upson said every member of the legislature feels the same way, but most will vote for the resolution at the next legislature meeting because if the resolution isn't passed, the state will just take the money from the county.

The total cost to the county of the increase exceeds $305,000.

Legislator Ray Cianfrini, who isn't on the Ways and Means Committee but was at the meeting, said he intends to vote against the resolution next Thursday.

"I’m as fed up as you are Mary Pat," Cianfrini said. "I'm voting no. I don’t care what the ramifications are."

Hancock said that if she thought the resolution wouldn't pass, she would vote yes, but since she expects the majority of legislators do what they must as mandated by the state, she wants to cast that symbolic no vote next Thursday.

"We’re not the only county being effected in this way, so I’m going to raise my hand and get as much attention on this as I can," Hancock said.

September 20, 2011 - 11:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, county legislature.

Underage drinkers who get caught and then ignore the ticket may soon find themselves losing their drivers' licenses.

A bill to put some teeth in underage drinking provisions got the support of the Public Service Committee of the Genesee County Legislature on Monday.

One of the biggest backers of the bill is Darien Town Justice Gary Graber, legislators noted. Graber sees hundreds of underage citations written every summer at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, but apparently few of the under-21 crowd cited ever make their scheduled court dates.

And there isn't much Graber, and other justices, can do about it, unless Assembly Bill A5722 passes.

The bill would also make it possible to suspend the driver's license of anybody given a citation for marijuana possession who doesn't appear in court.

On Monday, legislators passed a resolution urging Assembly and Senate approval of the bill.

May 26, 2011 - 8:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Albany, taxes, county legislature.

Without mandate relief, local officials say, a proposed property tax cap will strangle county government.

The cap proposal is moving through Albany and today the Genesee County Legislature sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local representatives.

Without addressing the root cause of the problem -- unfunded mandates -- counties will have to begin eliminating all non-mandated, community-based programs and services to stay under the cap. These programs include veterans services and aging programs, local road and bridge maintenance and repair, road patrol, long-term care and substance abuse services, to name a few.

Legislative Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock told WBTA today that rising pension costs and Medicaid expenses that are "forced" on the county are eating up too much local revenue.

"Pension costs have gone up 31 percent," she said. "And in the past several years, Medicaid has continued to escalate in cost."

WBTA also spoke with  Batavia City Schools' Business Manager Scott Rozanski, who predicted dark days ahead under the cap.

"In essence, it means we could only increase our expenditures by about $350,000," he said. "Cutting more is doable, but it would probably create a lot more uproar." 

Superintendent Margaret Puzio blamed the current proposed increase in the tax levy on Albany.

"The only reason we're looking at an increase in the tax levy is because our state aid was cut," she said.

While in Batavia today, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer addressed the issue. Ranzenhofer expressed support for Hancock's call to have the state assume the costs of Medicaid.

"I was a county legislator for 20 years -- I understand that issue," he said. "I'm also very concerned about overuse of the Medicaid system by some, to the detriment of others. I'm talking about not having every possible optional service that you can have.

If the state took over funding Medicaid, Razenhofer, it might take more seriously such as issues of fraud and waste and find ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

May 4, 2011 - 6:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, Elections.

There are now three Republican incumbent legislators who won't seek re-election in November.

Le Roy's representative, Jay Grasso, informed GOP County Chairman Dick Siebert today that he won't run and Siebert also confirmed that Legislator Bob Radley is not running.

County Republicans will meet at Bohn's Restaurant on Thursday evening to discuss potential candidates to endorse in each of the three races.

Seibert said Town of Le Roy Republicans already have a candidate they expect to endorse and will announce that candidate tomorrow night.

The local GOP will also need to select a candidate for coroner. Siebert said Coroner Jack Taylor will not seek re-election.

Upson announced in early April that he won't run again. Radley was not been available for comment today, but Grasso said he's been accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Rochester and fears he won't have time to pursue that program while serving as a legislator.

"I like to provide a certain level of constituent service," Grasso said. "I don't feel I can provide that level of service while in a doctoral program."

Grasso is studying education management. 

The other five Republican incumbents in the Legislature have all notified Siebert they intend to seek re-election.

Siebert said no potential candidate for District 9, the seat held by Democrat Ed DeJaneiro, has contacted either him or City GOP Chairman Joe Gerace seeking a GOP endorsement.

Republican Jane Corwin, running in the NY-26 special election, is expected to make an appearance at the GOP dinner tomorrow night.

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