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MAYOR PROMISES TOP-TO-BOTTOM REVIEW

Mayor Masiello on Wednesday promised a top-to-bottom review of city government in announcing the formation of a Charter Review Commission.

The mayor is expected to name James L. Magavern, a prominent Buffalo lawyer, to head the commission.

The commission, which Masiello will form in the next 30 days, will review all aspects of city government with an eye toward consolidation and modernization. The mayor's goal is to make City Hall more responsive, efficient and economical.

"We need a new internal instrument to help guide us into the future," he said.

Masiello announced the commission as part of his inaugural address to about 400 people at City Hall. The idea was barely public when Common Council members began raising questions.

Council President James W. Pitts said the mayor should give the Council a prominent role in the charter review. "If not, we'll form our own," Pitts said.

Six years ago, the Council led the opposition to the Charter Commission formed by then-Mayor James D. Griffin. Opponents included Masiello, then a state senator.

The last commission made a number of recommendations, including term limits, elimination of the Council presidency and removal of the power the Council has over operations in the Police and Fire departments.

In the end, the Council succeeded in convincing voters that the commission's recommendations were nothing but a power grab by Griffin.

Five years later, Masiello is proposing his own Charter Commission, and he wants it to look at the entire scope of city government.

Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio, who opposed the 1992 commission, said she does not expect a similar fight this year. She said she expects the mayor to appoint a non-partisan commission that reflects the city.

"It comes down to how broad and diversified the commission is," Mrs. LoTempio said.

Others were ready to endorse the mayor's idea.

"It's long overdue," said Council Member at Large Barbra A. Kavanaugh.

Ms. Kavanaugh thinks that many aspects of the charter are out of date and in desperate need of reform.

For some Council members, their support may come down to whether the commission recommends a reduction in the number of Council members.

Masiello said that he will not rule it out but that he will give the Council a role in the review process.

His announcement came almost a year after he first proposed the charter review.

Masiello thinks that the city can benefit from someone outside city government looking at how City Hall operates and recommending ways to improve its operations.

Council members also took their oaths of office Wednesday, with two new members -- Richard Fontana of the Lovejoy District and Dennis T. Manley of the South District.

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