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Control board needs new leader Group to date shows no inclination to make hard decisions Erie needs

Edward V. Regan's service to Erie County is well-known and appreciated, as were his statewide contributions as comptroller. That dual expertise reasonably led Gov. George E. Pataki to appoint him head of the county control board. But perhaps what made Regan successful in those posts made him too political and genteel to lead a control board.

If Regan chooses to resign at Thursday's meeting, the governor should replace him with a taskmaster and get a much-needed fresh start. To date, the board's record has been spotty at best. It's telling that while the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority should have played an integral part in two major, recent financial events, it didn't: The $15 million-plus settlement with Erie County Medical Center and the sharing of $12.5 million in sales tax revenue imperil the 2007 budget. They also unbalance the board's four-year financial plan. Either of these should provide sufficient reason for an on-the-ball board to turn into a "hard" control board to force hard decisions.

Appointed last summer, the board brought some much-needed professionalism to county decision making and worked behind the scenes to provide accurate numbers everyone could agree on, while nudging the financial ship in a more productive direction. This county needs far more than a nudge.

A new chairperson should energize a board mostly known now for leasing uneeded office space, hiring associates and expensive consultants. But the flawed functions of Erie County government remain just as flawed. Little -- besides higher tax bills and the diminishment of services -- has changed since the nightmare red and green budgets of 18 months ago. County Executive Joel A. Giambra's calls for regional cooperation go unheeded; Democrats controlling the Legislature aim for a Democrat in Giambra's job by Jan. 1, 2008, so they don't want reform to interfere with an impending patronage job barrage.

It thus falls to all control board members to take control, and they need a chairperson who will make real changes.

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