Quietly, with few people noticing, momentous doings are afoot regarding Erie County. Please pay attention to them.
County executives, legislators, comptrollers and department heads come and go, but they all must operate under the county charter. Twenty-three volunteers are currently involved in the thankless task of reviewing the charter and recommending changes and updates. Those changes must pass the commission with 12 votes, then win approval from the Legislature and the voters this fall to take effect.
This is a major method to reform the way Erie County does business and taxpayers should offer input and take stock in the commission's recommendations. The most dramatic so far would make the county executive a policy position and assign to an appointed county manager the day-to-day budgeting and running of the county. Since nearly two-thirds of counties nationwide operate this way -- and in some ways Erie County did in the '90s with Dennis T. Gorski and David Smith, his deputy -- why should Erie County not? The manager would work for the executive, but be protected from political pique. He or she would supervise budgets, four-year plans and business plans, and work closely with the Legislature.
It's too soon to endorse or criticize the Charter Review Commission's efforts, but it's not too soon for residents and taxpayers to give some thought to what should be changed and offer input at upcoming hearings. The commission meets Thursdays at 8 a.m. in the County Legislature chambers, 92 Franklin Street. The charter is available at www.erie.gov/laws/eccode/i.phtml. Suggestions can be mailed to George K. Arthur, Chairman, Erie County Charter Review Commission, 92 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY 14202.