With less than seven weeks left in office, County Executive Joel A. Giambra still is coming up with new ways to attack his oldest obsession -- consolidation of government services.
He introduced his latest gambit Thursday evening as guest speaker at a dinner meeting of the Western New York Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors in Ilio DiPaolo's Restaurant in Blasdell.
After a couple jokes about becoming a lame duck, he got down to business:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I have a modest proposal for you this evening. I propose that you ask Gov. [Eliot L.] Spitzer to make the Buffalo area a demonstration project for consolidation."
Giambra cited the drive in the 1950s and 1960s for school district consolidation, noting, "With state focus and state leadership, consolidation happened, and we have an opportunity to make it happen again."
He suggested that the state use the city and county fiscal control boards "as tools to achieve a firm new state policy on consolidation and government efficiency."
Giambra pointed to the regional and metro governments in Ontario, where the economy is thriving, and to Ohio and Pennsylvania, where officials currently are wrestling with the consolidation question.
"We've seen it up close," he said. "We've seen it work. And we've seen economic progress occur right across the border. . . . Ontario did it, while we still talk about it."
He ticked off the names of other cities that have seen success through consolidation -- Louisville, Ky.; Augusta, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.
Giambra noted that Erie County, comprising 1,000 square miles, has 1,000 units of government and discourages growth because of high property taxes that feed duplicated government services.
"The solution is decisive state action on government consolidation and on land-use planning," he said. "Action is action. Inaction, unfortunately, is also action. I don't think that we should be content with inaction."
Giambra blamed inaction on "politicians who don't want to give up what they've got" and state and local leaders who throw tax money at problems instead of making institutional changes.
"So I will encourage Gov. Spitzer to follow his instincts," he concluded. "I hope you will join me in asking him to do just that here in Western New York . . . specifically, to use the power of the state budget, to use the Buffalo control board and the Erie County control board to create a demonstration project -- to create the fully consolidated amalgamated regionalized City of Greater Buffalo. He has already heard it from me. I hope that after tonight he hears it from you."