A commission studying the merger of Buffalo and Erie County governments should get the ball rolling by reporting its findings before Jan. 1, says regionalism advocate Kevin P. Gaughan.
In a letter Monday to Chairman William R. Greiner, Gaughan chided the Greater Buffalo Working Group for thus far failing to deliver its report, due more than six months ago, and said that in light of the current county fiscal crisis, the commission should immediately press the state to allow a merger. A local referendum on the question could take place as early as next November, he said.
The budget crisis, resulting from a dispute between the county and state over rising Medicaid costs, "serves as yet another powerful argument to create a more nimble, effective and equitable local government," Gaughan said.
"Any time different government levels are arguing over which one is going to raise taxes, our children move to the Carolinas, our jobs to Texas and our hope to nowhere.
"And our city and region continue to lose," he added.
If the dispute is resolved next month, "the commission should be prepared to report directly thereafter," Gaughan said.
Gaughan, who seven years ago founded the "Buffalo Conversation" series of discussions on merging local governments, favors creating a 10-member regional legislature that represents the city and suburbs equally.