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MASIELLO WANTS ANSWERS BEFORE BACKING CITY-COUNTY MERGER

The idea of a consolidated city-county government appeals to Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, but only if -- and it's a big if -- all of the hard-core questions are answered. Questions like:

What services will be provided?

Who will provide those services?

And most important, who will pay the bill?

Masiello sent a letter last week to the Greater Buffalo Working Committee outlining his agenda as the committee continues looking into how city government can be folded into the county's.

"We have to make sure the urban core comes out of this better and stronger," Masiello told The Buffalo News. "Buffalo has always been the hub of this region and needs to stay the hub of this region."

Masiello, in his letter, said he's open to suggestions on how to improve city government but said his support hinges on the group's success in addressing the city's core problems.

"Regionalism for regionalism's sake should not be our goal," the mayor said in his letter. "I will support a new form of government only if it solves the fundamental financial problems facing the city."

The committee, formed by Masiello and County Executive Joel A. Giambra, is preparing a plan for merging City Hall into an expanded county government as a way to deliver services more efficiently.

"Those are fair questions," said committee Chairman William Greiner, former University at Buffalo president. "All of those are issues that need to be addressed."

Made up of people from academia, religion, government and business, the committee hopes to put its proposal for a new "Regional City of Buffalo" to the voters in November of next year.

Ultimately, the goal is to make Western New York more competitive as it tries to stem the exodus of people, business and jobs.

Next week, the Common Council will be asked to take a position on whether New York State should allow city-county mergers. Right now, state law does not allow those type of consolidations.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek, sponsor of the measure, says there needs to be a change. "What's killing New York State and our region is our political mentality."

Like the mayor, Golombek likes the idea of a single city-county government but he wants assurances that city residents will maintain their political representation.

Golombek said he doesn't know if his measure will pass but he thinks it's time for the Council to take a position.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com