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Hard times are upon us. Harder times will be in our future if our elected representatives at all levels cannot find the courage to make the hard decisions.

Taxes must not be raised -- certainly not property taxes. Our neighborhoods are beginning to recover. In the last five years, I have seen more new families move into my neighborhood, and several friends have returned from Boston and Washington, D.C., to the Elmwood village. When I moved in six years ago, there was hardly a child or flower garden to be seen. Things are different now. Raising property taxes is not an option. We need to make it easier for people to move into the city -- not harder.

The schools will not get better with more money from the government; they will get better when more involved parents move back in to the city. Jobs in city government should certainly be eliminated -- but not just any job, and not every job.

Jobs should be eliminated because they are not useful positions or because the people in them are not qualified. Deputy and assistant deputy commissioners are a good start. Cars and gas cards should be gone for good. Health insurance premiums should be paid partly by government workers themselves -- like the rest of us do in the real world.

If every senior center, community center and pool needs to be closed for a year or two to keep taxes down and people employed -- then so be it. Hard decisions must be made. Do we want jobs and people in the city or do we want Buffalo just to become a service center for those in need?

The old phrase, "It's the economy, stupid," comes to mind. Without jobs and people, we become nothing more than a refugee camp providing services paid for by a decreasing, overtaxed population.

Salaries should be in line with the national average. Block grant funding should be spent on projects that create visible change, not used in amounts so small that nothing can be seen for the millions spent here in the last decade. And if that means that some districts see no money in any one year, then so be it.

We need to use the money in larger increments to finish a project that will make a difference. We can then build on our success and move from neighborhood to neighborhood each year and actually have something visible at the end of the day.

At the state level, I encourage a tough control board for Buffalo. Based on results, our system does not work, and our elected officials have not been able to change spending habits. There are those who would like to change, but sadly there are not enough votes to carry this through.

Furthermore, at the state level, increased taxes for investors and the rich is not the answer. What is the answer? Jobs, jobs, jobs -- there is no more to say. New York is a welfare state. We need a business-friendly environment -- not because we "love the rich," as the left would say -- but because we want the jobs. No poor man ever gave me a job.

To the elected officials of Buffalo, I say: Please, do the right thing. Make the hard decisions, and do it without regard for your own chances of re-election. We need to effect change.

DEBORAH LYNN WILLIAMS is a consultant specializing in business development.
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