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January 14, 2016 - 11:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in CSEA, unions, County, government.

The county has reached a new four-year contract agreement with its largest employee union, granting employees represented by the bargaining unit a 1.8 percent annual raise.

The immediate budget impact is an increase in spending this year on employee salaries and $114,291 more in payroll expenses.

The Civil Service Employees Association represents at least one employee in every department of the county, with the largest concentration being in the Department of Social Services, Health and Mental Health. Other unions represent Sheriff's deputies, nursing home staff, dispatchers and jailers and Highway Department workers.

County Jay Gsell said negotiations were much less contentious this year then in rounds past and it took only two or three meetings to arrive at an agreement. He credited the negotiating team from CSEA's Rochester office -- in the past, it's been a negotiator from Buffalo who met with county officials -- for working quickly to get an agreement in place.

The employees voted 158-13 in favor of the contract, Gsell said.

The contract also changes how expenses for health insurance are shared.

Cost sharing between the county and county employees started a few years ago and the employee share was capped at 10 percent of the employee's wage.

The new formula will calculate the share based on the bi-weekly cost of the premium. This year, the employee will pay 10 percent of the premium, then 11 percent in each of the following years and 12 percent in 2019.

The county's healthcare costs, which is a self-funded insurance program, have been going up 3 to 5 percent per year. This formula will distribute those rising costs to employees.

The highway workers are already under a contract with this new language, Gsell said, and the county will seek to get the other three unions to agree to the new terms.

"It's easier for us to be somewhat uniform and also clean up these contracts and the number of clauses," Gsell said. "(The contracts) with health care and compensation, changes get so convoluted at times. It's in our best interest to try and simplify them, but also understand there needs to be more cost sharing between employer and employee. It's the real world."

The pay raise, at 1.8 percent per year compounded would take an employee at $15 an hour to $16.11 in 2019. For an employee at $20 an hour, the rate in four years would be $21.48.

That's an extra $117.60 in pay bi-weekly for the $20-an-hour employee.

If the employee is currently covered by a healthcare plan worth $1,100 per month, and that premium went up 3 percent each year, in four years, the premium would be $1,238. The employee's share would increase from $55 bi-weekly to $74.28.

These are dollars not adjusted for inflation, which is currently less than 1 percent.

The Ways and Means Committee recommended Wednesday that the County Legislature approve the new contract.

October 27, 2013 - 4:15pm
posted by Robert Brown in genesee county, government.

We live in an interesting time and place. Our county (Genesee, NY) consists of about 60,000 residents scattered around 13 towns, six villages, and the City of Batavia across about 500 square miles of largely agricultural space. Those 20 municipalities each have their own government structures with their own elections (surprisingly not all managed by the Genesee County Board of Elections) and their own net costs to taxpayers.

The City of Batavia consists of about 15,500 people (which is essentially a quarter of the total Genesee County population) who are represented by three elected County Legislators at the county level as well as nine elected representatives (one for each of the City's six wards and three additional at-large officials) on City Council. Genesee County Government alone employs more than 700 people -- those are government employees!

According to statistics published by Zoom Prospector, the government sector in all of Genesee County employs more than 6,000 people (those are all public-sector jobs and include teachers, law enforcement, et.al.)!  That's a lot of government for the 15,500 people in the City and the 60,000 people in the County. That also translates to a lot of non-wealth-generating expense for Genesee County taxpayers.

Contrast that with the City of Weston, Fla. Weston consists of about 67,700 people with an elected government of five people and a whopping nine additional employees. That's right, a total of 14 government employees manage the entire government for 67,700 people!

Now I realize this is an apples-to-oranges comparison on some levels, but even if county-provided services (e.g., Weston contracts the Broward County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services -- yes, a county-run police force can effectively cover a city, in fact, multiple cities of substantial size) are included, Weston does not come anywhere near the County's 700 (more like 800-plus if you count all the municipalities in Genesee County) and certainly not 6,000 government employees for its 67,700 people. Yet Weston has streets, parks, sidewalks, businesses, homes, services, and everything else (except the same weather and state income taxes) we have in Genesee County.

It's time we look closely at the way we have been running government in Genesee County. Justifying three paid county legislators because Batavia is a third (or more accurately a quarter) the Genesee County population is not logical.

Are the needs of the citizens in the three legislative districts for the City of Batavia any different at the County level? Couldn't a single county legislator effectively represent the City? However many paid county legislators makes sense -- how about they retain an attorney as necessary and hire a county manager who then hires a clerk, treasurer, and a handful of department heads. Then contract the rest of the work out to the public sector and augment with part-time employees when necessary.

I realize it's not that simple to implement in a snap, but why can't we envision the optimum solution and put a plan in place to make it a reality? Why do we allow ourselves to perpetuate inefficiency? Do we really need nine elected officials on Batavia City Council? We elect multiple highway superintendents, clerks, judges, attorneys, coroners, treasurers, et.al., across the County and our various municipalities. Then an army of government-hired employees is assembled to perform everything government decides to undertake.

Why? How are the citizens of Genesee County benefiting from it all? Do we really need 6,000-plus government employees in Genesee County? Can we prosper with that proportion of government employment? Can we even survive? Should government even be in the business of providing services that are already available in the private sector, especially when the government-provided services are not fiscally responsible to all taxpayers?

If you believe government as a whole in the country is bloated, consider that about 15 percent of our active national workforce is employed in the public sector. That IS substantial and unsustainable. Meanwhile, here in Genesee County, about 20 percent of our active workforce is employed by the government! And on average, those public employees are paid as well as or better than most of the remaining 80 percent of the workforce in the County!

Genesee County has become a microcosm of all the problems we see at the state and federal levels: attempting to do too much with too many fingers in the pie. Let's get back to basics. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to strive for efficiency. Nay, we need to excel at efficiency! We need to stop expecting government to fill every role in our community and instead give citizens back the power, resources, and freedom to invest in solutions that work best for them.

We're on the verge of electing a new County Legislature -- let's elect the candidates who are unafraid to relinquish control and advocate an efficient, streamlined government.

For reference, here's a blog (sorry, it's 18 months old) on how Weston does it:

http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/How-.htm

 

July 8, 2010 - 2:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, government.

Using data from See Through New York, here's a list of the 25 highest paid public employees in Genesee County in 2009 (the most recent year with complete data available).

  • Edward Orman: $236,708, Superintendent, Pavilion Central Schools
  • Gary Mix: $211,413, Superintendent Pembroke Central Schools
  • Steve Hyde: $199,259, President and CEO, GCEDC
  • Gregory Geer: $149,605, Superintendent, Byron-Bergen Central School District
  • Martin Basinait: $137,850, Director, Western Off-Track Betting
  • Cindy Herzog: $132,708, Superintendent, Le Roy Central School District
  • Margaret Puzio: $127,000, Superintendent, Batavia City Schools
  • Christopher Todd: $123,600, Superintendent, Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools
  • Michael Crowley: $121,242, CFO, BOCES
  • Lawrence Friedman: $118,187, District Attorney, Genesee County
  • Pamela Buresch: $117,862, Administrator of Student Assessment, Batavia City Schools
  • Kathleen Maerten: $115,200, Superintendent, Alexander Central Schools
  • Stephen Mahoney: $112,077, Human Resources, BOCES
  • Kevin Hamilton: $110,430 Vice President for Finance and Operations, Genesee Community College
  • Michael Glover: $109,301, Superintendent, BOCES
  • Gregory MacAluso: $109,301 Asst. Superintendent, BOCES
  • Sheila Eigenbrod: $109,275, Middle & High School Principal, Pavilion Central Schools
  • Joan Cole: $108,250 Superintendent, Elba Central Schools
  • William Lang: $107,201, Asst. Superintendent, Pembroke Central Schools
  • Sandra Griffin: $105,935, Middle School Principal, Batavia City School
  • Trisha Finnigan: $105,924, Director of Special Education, Batavia City School
  • Brian Moran: $105,454, Athletic Director, Le Roy Central School District
  • Keith Palmer: $105,065, Principal, Pembroke Central Schools
  • Ted Hale: $104,700, Director of Instructional Programs, BOCES
  • Craig Williams: $104,581, Fire Captain, City of Batavia 

UPDATE: In comments, Jeff Allen correctly points out that we left out judicial salaries.  The bottom three on the list above would have been pushed off by the following three judges:

  • Robert Noonan, $139,479, Fourth Judicial Department, County Court Judge
  • Eric Adams, $123,240, Fourth Judicial Department, Family Court Judge
  • Robert Balbick, $115,540, Fourth Judicial Department, City Court Judge
October 18, 2009 - 12:59pm
posted by Bea McManis in government, intervention, clotheslines.

What do you think?  Should clothes lines be banned?

I say, no way!  

 

http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/join-the-fight-to-legalize-clotheslines/

September 5, 2009 - 10:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Announcements, government, genesee county legislature.

The Genesee County Legislature meets Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Old Courthouse.

Agenda (PDF)

Resolutions (PDF)

September 3, 2009 - 4:22pm
posted by David Green in batavia, budget, city council, government, taxes.

I know there has been a lot of talk about the City of Batavia saving money. Here is an idea that seems to be going around Erie county, lets downsize Council. Batavia seems to have a large council considering the times, maybe eliminating the two "at large"  positions to cut more fat from the city budget might be a good idea. Not sure if it has been looked at, but if we are looking to save money in the city, why not start at the top? Maybe its just me, but wouldnt that be responsible government?

July 2, 2009 - 6:36pm
posted by bud prevost in government.

AG Cuomo was in Rochester today on his tour of NY, to promote and educate people about government consolidation in our great state. I added the link for the web site. I say this is timely, given talk of town and city of Batavia merging. http://www.reformnygov.com/

June 22, 2009 - 12:22pm
posted by Irene Will in government.

State Senators Agree On Collecting Their Paychecks

The state Senate may be at odds over who controls the chamber, but each side signed paperwork last week to ensure they and their staffs got paid.

Amid the chaos over control of the Senate, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, and dissident Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, signed paperwork last week so senators and staff were paid.

Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, and Senate secretary Angelo Aponte also signed the necessary paperwork, but separate from the Republicans, according to the state Comptroller’s Office.

The Senate’s presiding officer typically signs off on the payroll, but because that’s in dispute, both sides submitted their own paperwork.

Gov. David Paterson said if they can find a way to work out the payroll, they should find a way to resolve their leadership struggle.

“So there is a power-sharing agreement * but it only includes getting paid,” said spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein. “If the leadership of the Senate can agree on a way to keep getting paid, they can reach an agreement to get back to work for the people of New York.”

But Republicans said the governor’s claims are false: The sides didn’t agree to sign the paperwork together; they did so independently. Each senator gets a base salary of $79,500.

The payroll flap comes as the standoff between Democrats and Republicans went into its 11th day Thursday. Senators went home for the weekend after Republicans held an unsuccessful session where no Democrats other than Espada showed up.

They are expected to return Monday, which is scheduled to be the last day of the legislative session.

The Senate has been at a standstill since June 8, when Republicans and two Democrats led a coup to oust the Democratic majority. Democrats refuse to acknowledge the vote and one of the rogue Democrats, Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, rejoined the Democratic conference, putting the Senate in its 31-31 stalemate.

There are more than 100 bills pending in the Legislature that affect county governments and property taxpayers, said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. In particular, 36 counties need to have their sales-tax rates reauthorized.

June 10, 2009 - 10:53am
posted by Bea McManis in government, czars, communism, facism, fear mongering, socialism.

Posted by Andrew Erbell on June 10, 2009 - 9:19am
But, I'm fear-mongering, right? You do know all these czars the President has been appointed are accountable to no-one except the President, right? I thought our country was founded with a system of checks and balances in government?

President Obama is not the first to name a superaide to an extraordinarily powerful position accountable only to him. Richard Nixon may have begun the practice, with an "energy czar," and President Bush named Tom Ridge the White House czar of homeland security before the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security was created.
The people and most of the media are complicit. People beg the president to solve all their problems, as if he was some combination of a shaman, doctor, teacher, commander, worker of magic and all-powerful cult leader, and instead of protesting such veneration we go along with it.

Speaking of Czars....

President Bush Approves 'Copyright Czar' Bill
10.13.08

by Chloe Albanesius

President Bush on Monday approved a controversial bill that will effectively create a "copyright czar" within the White House.

Bush signed the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act, a measure that will create several new government enforcement positions.

The Senate approved the bill on Sept. 30 after Sen. Ron Wyden successfully requested that Congress remove a provision requiring the Department of Justice to enforce copyright provisions.

The DOJ told a House Judiciary subcommittee in December that the PRO-IP Act was unnecessary and counterproductive to the work it has already accomplished.

The bill does, however, create an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) who will serve within the Office of the President. The IPEC will chair a committee made up of representatives from the Office of Management and Budget, the DOJ, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Department of Homeland Security, the FDA, and others.
www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2332432,00.asp

President Bush's Drug Czar Invades Politics
Posted July 18, 2007 | 04:44 PM (EST)

In a startling discovery of what appears to reek of the stench of collusion, a Congressional committee has discovered evidence that the nation's drug czar and his deputies traveled to almost two dozen events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the 2006 elections. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, alleged that the taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President Bush's political advisers and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that benefited the districts of the Republican members.
The president continues to blatantly compromise the integrity of his administration for political gain, legality and ethics be damned. Two questions should be asked. How long will the drug czar and other public servants continue to use taxpayer money to influence voters on behalf of the Republican party before Congress takes action to stop this clearly unethical and illegal action? President Bush: how long will you fund costly, ineffective and harmful policies as a quid pro quo to secure a few votes?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-piper-and-anthony-papa/president-bushs-drug-cza_b_56811.html?view=print


Bush Finds A War Czar
President Taps 3-Star General To Oversee Military Operations In Iraq And Afghanistan

NEW YORK, May 16, 2007 | by Joel Roberts
President Bush has finally found a war czar. Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute will coordinate U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. At least five retired four-star generals turned down the new position before Lute -- a three-star general -- came on board, according to the
Washington Post. The newspaper described Lute as an important behind-the-scenes foe of Mr. Bush's troop buildup in Iraq.

But Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told the New York Times that Lute now supports the president's "surge" strategy. Lute's new role must be confirmed by the Senate.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/16/the_skinny/main2811860.shtml

Bush Names Negroponte Intel Czar
Intelligence Director Will Oversee 15 Agencies, Including CIA

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2005 | by John Esterbrook
CBS/AP)  President Bush named John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as the government's first national intelligence director Thursday, turning to a veteran diplomat to revive a spy community besieged by criticism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ending a nine-week search, Mr. Bush chose Negroponte, who has been in Iraq for less than a year, for the difficult job of implementing the most sweeping intelligence overhaul in 50 years.

Negroponte, 65, is tasked with bringing together 15 highly competitive spy agencies and learning to work with the combative Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the brand new CIA Director Porter Goss and other intelligence leaders. He'll oversee a covert intelligence budget estimated at $40 billion.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/17/terror/main674678.shtml

June 2, 2009 - 11:41am

 

HAWLEY VOTES FOR BILL TO SAVE TAXPAYER DOLLARS,

MAKE GOVERNMENT MORE EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE

 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) today voted in favor of Assembly Bill 8501, the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.”  This legislation would help save taxpayer dollars by allowing local government to become more effective and efficient, while at the same time standardizing state law regarding the process of government consolidation.

 

“I firmly believe that less government is better government and I have long supported initiatives to consolidate government services, such as during this year’s budget negotiation.  By consolidating services among the three levels of government, we can more effectively and efficiently serve our collective constituency,” said Hawley.

 

The Assemblyman continued, “at first glance there were some fears about this legislation that I shared with local government agencies.  I wanted to make sure that this bill was not just another Albany-imposed mandate.  I have taken the time to carefully review the bill and to vet the language with my colleagues in local government as well as to read a number of letters and e-mails my office has received since this bill was introduced.  We need to take steps to cut government excess in order to truly protect the taxpayers and businesses of our state and I believe after considering this legislation that this bill will help meet that goal.”

 

The bill puts into place a standardized method for government consolidation, shared services or dissolution of government entities, should that be proposed on a local level.  While the Assemblyman originally had some concerns about the bill, upon reviewing the bill language and vetting it through local and state officials, he came to the conclusion that the bill merely clarifies and standardizes the process by which local government entities may consolidate, share services or dissolve, should the voters of the district petition. 

 

The largest among the Assemblyman’s original concerns was that the bill outlines that 10 percent of the electorate must sign a petition calling for a referendum on the issue of consolidation, sharing services or dissolution.  However, this 10 percent is greater than the current 5 percent standard in Town Law and greater than the percentage needed in most cases for a petition to consolidate adjoining villages under current Village Law.  Additionally, the bill provides a safeguard for small villages and government entities with populations of less than 500 residents.  In these cases, the bill calls for 20 percent of the population to sign the petition.

 

Additionally, the Assemblyman shared the concern of some local officials that this measure would put too much power into the hands of county-level officials.  However, current state law already gives counties this power.  Another concern was that should a referendum be called for, taxpayers would be asked to foot the bill for holding a special election.  Yet, the bill directly states that should a referendum be called, it may be held at any time, including on general elections.

 

Finally, the Assemblyman was concerned that should a referendum be called for and passed, it would give local government entities short notice to lay out plans to consolidate, share services or dissolve.  The bill language details the standardized process, which would amount to a minimum of 390 days and, thereafter, it would take up to an additional two years for the plan to be fully implemented.

 

“At the end of the day, this bill puts the power of change into the hands of the people, which, in my opinion, is where it belongs.  This bill does not call for governments to consolidate or dissolve at a local level.  It merely gives a standardized process for localities should they consider this option,” said Hawley.

 

To further ensure that certain government entities, such as fire districts, are protected, Hawley is drafting new legislation that would amend A.8501.  The Assemblyman stated, “I want to make sure that our fire departments are fully protected and that the bill which was passed does not have any unintended negative consequences for our firefighters, especially in terms of volunteer firefighter recruitment.  I will continue working together with the fire districts and volunteer fire departments in the 139th Assembly District and my colleagues in the State Legislature toward this end.”

 

###

 

February 4, 2009 - 12:00pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in government, polls.

The New York Times reports this morning that there are plans to institute a $500,000 salary cap for executives whose companies will receive large amounts in the proposed bailout. From that article:

The new rules would be far tougher than any restrictions imposed during the Bush administration, and they could force executives to accept deep reductions in their current pay. They come amid rising public fury about huge pay packages for executives at financial companies being propped up by federal tax dollars.

Executives at companies that have already received money from the Treasury Department would not have to make any changes. But analysts and administration officials are bracing for a huge wave of new losses, largely because of the deepening recession, and many companies that have already received federal money may well be coming back.

What are your thoughts?

December 12, 2008 - 9:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in consolidation, government, Andrew Cuomo.

The idea of consolidation of local governments is on its face appealing. It holds out the promise of cost savings, if not lower taxes, as well as reduced regulations on businesses.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo thinks there are too many government agencies in New York.

“Simply put, our system of local government is broken. It has been outpaced by globalization, regionalization, and an ever changing marketplace,” he said. “The density of local government in New York is astounding. There are 10,521 overlapping government units, providing duplicative services creating needless, wasteful bureaucracies.”

The questionable assumption in Cuomo's statement is that globalization and regionalization (never heard that word before) is a good thing.

One could make the case that the smaller the government agency, the closer it is to the people it effects, and the more responsive it is to small group or individual needs.

Here are some other assertions worth further examination:

The law is filled with anachronisms. More disturbing is that the law contains provisions that are relics of the past that conjure up images of “poll taxes.” In some cases, an individual may vote to dissolve or consolidate governments, such as special districts, only if they own taxable real property in the area.

Comparing current laws in New York to racist policies of a Jim Crow era is a pretty loaded. What civil rights are being impinged by the current system?

Again, the idea of consolidation has its appeal. With 10K+ government bodies in New York, you can be assured that many are receiving totally inaccurate oversight.

As a young reporter in California, I loved covering special districts because they received such little attention from journalists. That lack of oversight encouraged a devil-may-care attitude among the officials charged with running the districts. Their expense reports were often a playground of excess if not outright maleficence. There's no doubt that there are redundant and uncessary districts in WNY.

However, I would be leery of any consolidation scheme that diminishes a small town's ability to engage in self rule. Residents shouldn't lose the ability to rub elbows with the elected officials who decided how to spend their tax money.

(Link via Buffalo Pundit)

September 30, 2008 - 12:21pm
posted by Mark Wiatrowski in government, nation and world.

Let me begin by saying that I'm far from being a genius. All this talk about this large bailout has me concerned and confused.

Big corporations and lending institutions have made a grave misjudgement in how they handle their finances. The apparent answer is for the American people to pay the government this money that they gave to these institutions to keep operating.

Why do we have to foot the bill for other peoples mistakes? If I mishandle my finances, I'm sure not going to ask my neighbors to pay for it.

I understand the country is in trouble, but I feel that the ones responsible for this situation should be the ones to correct it.

September 25, 2008 - 8:22am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, government, Albany, finance.

WBTA's Chad Zambito tells us about a new Web site for state residents that allows anyone with the inclination to search out how much their municipality is spending, in real dollars. The site is called Open Book New York, and it was launched and will be maintained by the state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Really, folks, it's this easy:

Zambito did us the favor searching the city of Batavia. Spending for the city was $24 million in 2006, while $5.5 million of that went to public safety. You can look at figures as far back as 1996, but no later than 2006, at least for the time being.

May 13, 2008 - 1:00pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in city council, consolidation, government, Sam Barone, taxes.

City Councilman Sam Barone came by Main Street Coffee this morning for a chat. He was one minute early. Punctual. I like that. Over a couple mugs of black coffee, while white collars settled into their cubicle chairs and farmers into their plow seats, Sam and I talked about city life in a small town, what gets a man to run for office and what it's like to watch your kids leave home for greener pastures.

Sam grew up in Batavia, not far from Austin Park, he tells me. He taught science for a living out in Byron and Bergen, until he retired. But that doesn't mean he's any less interested in the science of life — animate or otherwise. He'll always have a soft spot for Batavia's parks, even if they paved over the wading pool to put in a spray park. He knows the trees of those parks intimately, some of them more than a century old, he says. Worth preserving. Worth appreciating.

Sam took a seat on the City Council only about five months ago. Why did he do it? Why would anyone do it? "Basically," he says, "the taxes."

"Last year, they proposed a large increase in taxes. So I started attending meetings to get information on how the city operates and realized we had some very serious deficits."

Still, Sam wanted to hang in the back seat. So when the Democrats asked him to run on their ticket back in July, Sam said: No. Of course, we know he gave in and got elected. He and his fellow Council members battled their way through the budget — laborious, he says — and reduced the tax increase to 8 percent, compared with the 23 percent hike from the year before, says Barone.

That laborious struggle to balance the budget may soon seem like a cakewalk as the city gets ready to roll up its sleeves and take a long hard look at the question that nobody seems to want to mention out loud: consolidation.

Albany recently approved a $93,000 grant for the town and city of Batavia to look at consolidating services and "potentially merging the two municipalities into a single entity," according to the Albany Project.

Sam admits that he's a bit wary of consolidation talk himself. He doesn't want the city to lose its cultural character by merging with the town. But at the same time, he doesn't see any reason the county can't help pay for ambulance service or the town can't share its snowplows with the city.

"Some areas should be consolidated," he says. "Some shouldn't. I want Batavia to have an identity."

He finds that identity in the city's parks, its green open spaces, its ball field and its homes. We talked at length about Batavia's homes — the facades along Main Street were the first thing I fell in love with when I took a virgin drive through Batavia earlier this year.

Sam spoke of the Brisbane Mansion, once a home, then turned City Hall, that now houses the police station. He told of the Briggs home down Walnut Street. I drove down that way to find it, but there were so many fetching abodes that I couldn't say for sure which one would take the prize. I snapped a photo of this yellow one that seemed a dollhouse erected for normal size people.

There was a very nice old home right at the bend where South Main turns into Walnut that also had plenty of fancy dressings and age spots to recommend itself as another contender for most interesting old big house in that ward of the city.

Heritage homes and ancient trees aside, the first thing on Sam's mind was bringing more jobs into Batavia, likely the first thing on most folks' mind these days around here. Sam has three boys. All three left their Batavia home for somewhere they could get a job. His eldest may not have gone far — to Rochester to work for a communications manufacturer — but the other two couldn't have gone farther, without leaving the country.

One boy took off for Portland, Oregon. Sam calls him "the free spirit" — he left to play music out on the west coast. The other left for Florida after he lost his machine supply job up here. Both are doing well for themselves, but they're doing it far from home.

"Part of it is the taxes," says Sam. "Part of it is the type of work you're looking for. People are finding the work elsewhere."

That might just be the biggest challenge for a City Councilman in these parts: get the work to come thiswhere. Best of luck with that, Sam.

May 13, 2008 - 9:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, government, public records.

I've only read a few open record laws in my journalism career, so I can't say the state of New York has the prettiest Freedom of Information preamble, but it is a nice, inspiring bit of prose:

§84. Legislative declaration. The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government.

As state and local government services increase and public problems become more sophisticated and complex and therefore harder to solve, and with the resultant increase in revenues and expenditures, it is incumbent upon the state and its localities to extend public accountability wherever and whenever feasible.

The people's right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. The legislature therefore declares that government is the public's business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government in accordance with the provisions of this article.

That phrase on public problems becoming more sophisticated and complex reminds me of the post I did Saturday about the importance of freely sharing information, discussing issues and exploring different perspectives -- a key mission of The Batavian.

In order to give Batavia the kind of online forum it deserves to discuss and explore all issues, we certainly intend to seek out, retrieve and examine public records -- not in the "gotcha" spirit of much of traditional media, but in a spirit of openness, frankness and with a goal toward creating a better Batavia.

May 2, 2008 - 3:33pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, VA, government.

Well, the thunderheads that rode my back all afternoon finally broke and clapped out a fine downpour that soaked me through and through as I jogged from the old county courthouse to my car. It was an apt climax to an ominous day that smelled alternately of manure, garlic bread and peonies.

Not much to report as the day has been spent more in preparation than any actual news gathering. In characteristic style, I made my introductions by getting lost all over the place. Lost in the tunnels of the VA Medical Center. Lost in its auditorium. Lost in both courthouses (old and new), in the county office building and in a parking lot — don't ask.

I met some more great folks indoors and out. Paul Figelow stopped by Main Street Coffee to say hello. He's the owner of a sort of video production company: theinfochannel.us. Dan Jones introduced himself via Instant Message. Dan seems like a fellow who has a lot to say, so, hopefully, we'll see some more of him on here. He heads up a Young Democrats group in Batavia.

There were others as well. Maybe they will come by and introduce themselves.

I'm off to continue my urban wanderings, maybe make a few phonecalls. None yet returned today — it's Friday. If I don't see you back here today, have a fine weekend.

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