Some Erie County power brokers made it clear Wednesday that a road map for the area's future does not include a place called "consolidation" or "metropolitan government."
The closest stops on the road were "regionalization" and "collaboration."
It was apparent to the more than 50 philanthropists and fund-raisers listening to the politicians and bureaucrats that even these destinations would not be reached by a direct route.
The forum for the free-wheeling discussion was the 13th annual Conference on Philanthropy sponsored by the Western New York Grantmakers Association.
The topic was "Solutions for a Stronger Western New York Community."
Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Greater Buffalo Partnership, attacked "Byzantine laws in New York State" that he blamed for the exodus of business and industry and the resulting loss of jobs.
Buffalo Common Council President James W. Pitts chided Rudnick for "government bashing" and reminded him that many of those laws "were pushed through the Legislature by the advocates and lobbyists of the private sector that are complaining about them."
"At the same time, the private sector is downsizing and going to foreign countries for labor," he added.
"The public does depend on government," Pitts said, "because the government has had to make up for the deficiencies not dealt with by the private sector."
John Sheffer, interim vice president of public services and urban affairs at the University at Buffalo and a former state senator, pronounced metro government "no choice . . . massive consolidation of governments on a regional basis, as a practical and political matter, is not likely to happen.
"Around the country, this type of proposal has almost always been rejected, and those few that were put in place were a decision of the state governments, and that is not going to happen in New York State."
Sheffer wasn't too enthusiastic about regionalism either.
"I am not saying it is bad," he said, "but we should focus our efforts on public service, and we have to look at it service by service.
"This must be done through collaboration, so we need a table in the region to come to and talk about these things, and we need to hang our biases at the door."
County Executive Gorski, who has championed welfare reform regardless of its cost to Erie County, has had second thoughts.
Talking about the reduction of state and federal dollars, Gorski pointed out that "beginning July 1 1997, over the next 10 years welfare reform will cost Erie County $55 billion."
Mayor Masiello said he wants Western New Yorkers "to have the will to make changes and the will to change their views about themselves and each other."
"For some reason," the mayor said, "people here are not getting together."
Lynn Millane, Town of Amherst supervisor, gave upbeat reports of collaborative efforts with Clarence, the City of Tonawanda, Grand Island and Williamsville but never mentioned Buffalo.
Richard Swist, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, wished that everyone involved with public transportation would get together.
"We spend $65 million for our system, and there is another $47 million being spent by other governments and agencies, resulting in many empty seats," Swist said.
"The (United Cerebral Palsy Association), for example, has the second-largest fleet in the county, and there are often empty seats in its vans," he said.