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3 STATE LAWMAKERS BACK PROPOSED COUNTY CHARTER

Three state legislators representing Niagara County endorsed the proposed County Charter on Thursday.

State Sens. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, and Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Niagara Falls, called on voters to give a thumbs-up to the charter, which includes creation of the position of county executive, in the Nov. 6 referendum.

But County Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said he suspects that the opposition to the charter from 11 of the 12 town supervisors will weigh more heavily on the voters' minds.

"In all honesty, I would say with 11 of 12 towns taking the stand they've taken, with the population listening to their supervisors and taking their advice on politics, I think the passage of (the charter) is in jeopardy," Burmaster said.

State law requires that the charter win separate majorities among city and town voters in order to be approved. Conventional wisdom among local politicians is that the charter will probably pass in the cities, but is in trouble in the towns.

The supervisors have been attacking the charter for months, saying that the post of executive would be too expensive, that reducing the Legislature by four members would dilute representation, and that the county could take away town control of the water and sewer districts and interfere in zoning matters.

But County Legislator Samuel P. Granieri, D-Niagara Falls, said he thinks that the pro-charter forces have momentum and that the endorsement of the state legislators adds to it.

"I think it shows that state-level lawmakers know the need for Niagara County government to reorganize," he said. "They have much direct experience trying to deal with Niagara County government."

In a statement released by the Committee for a Better Niagara, a business-funded group, which is paying for a pro-charter advertising campaign, Maziarz was quoted as saying: "Niagara County needs a strong executive to run the business of government. Our current system is broken, and the results speak for themselves."

DelMonte said the charter would strengthen the county, the largest in the state that still uses the committee system. "We need to professionalize the office so that a leader is at the helm," she said.

"The taxpayers of Niagara County deserve a more effective county government that gets things done," said Brown, whose district includes Niagara Falls.

The release did not mention Assemblyman David E. Seaman, R-Lockport, who could not be reached for his views on the charter.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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