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Time for a hard control board If county legislators fail again, the only solution for their shortcomings is ready

Saturday is the deadline, written in state law, for Erie County legislators to deliver a realistic four-year financial plan to the control board chaired by Edward V. Regan. If they ignore the deadline, Regan's board gets teeth.

Given the critical need to remake county government, better now than later. In fact, county taxpayers have watched for nearly a year as the Legislature whined and failed. Time's up. As Lee Iacocca used to say, lead, follow or get out of the way.

Saturday's deadline is the first trip-wire moment when the "soft," advisory control board could metamorphose into a "hard" board. It would have the clout to begin changing for the better the political and financial culture in Erie County. Seize the moment. No excuses, no pussyfooting, no doubts.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what they are doing in Old County Hall. Legislators are preparing to present the control board a four-year plan that includes a sales tax increase they don't even have the votes to enact. That could give lawmakers breathing room to try to line up the 10 votes needed and, not coincidentally, get them through November's election more or less unscathed. Cynical, no?

This may all sound eerily familiar to county residents. While County Executive Joel A. Giambra appears to be applying some lessons learned in the 2005 budget debacle, legislators continue to bumble along like a committee of Inspector Clouseaus. If only this were as hilarious.

Even a phony four-year plan may be enough to stave off a hard control board for a time, but this train is moving to that station. Get ready to get on board. Painful as it may be, it's for the best.

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