Regionalism got a needed and welcome boost from a study commission that recently reported to Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra. The commission's work holds out hope for more than $48 million per year in potential savings -- and it shows how this area can improve the efficiency of the services it provides while reducing redundancy.
The Who Does What? Commission's 17 recommendations for consolidating and streamlining services across the county also bolster the idea that fiefdoms cost too much taxpayer money to operate.
For example, the commission recommended centralizing property tax billing and processing of property assessments, while maintaining the taxpayer convenience of paying taxes at local town or village offices. Makes sense. And it's doubtful taxpayers really care who ultimately shuffles the papers.
Other commission suggestions include consolidation of functions common from one village or town to another, and the formation of buying consortiums to get better prices for larger-scale purchases.
Whenever words such as centralization or merge are used in this region, though, red flags fly. There is a suburban-city rift, and reluctance even among suburbs to yield political turf.
Amherst has been the most resistant to regionalism, which is unfortunate because its participation is vital. Change is always difficult. This is a conservative area that holds on to tradition, but some traditions are difficult to justify.
That includes this region's overarching tradition of fragmented and overlapping political and administrative turf. Failing to streamline government and make it more cooperative and cost-efficient won't just mean missing out on benefits -- it means remaining mired in the swamp of inefficiency that hinders regionwide progress and economic recovery.
Of course, not every regionalism idea is a good one. Centralizing operations may not always be the best approach. The merit of each proposal has to be weighed individually, and regional approaches should not be blindly pursued.
But the commission's study puts its recommendations on solid ground, and neither politics nor stubborn adherence to go-it-alone policies offer valid reasons for opposition. These recommendations deserve strong consideration.