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Commission to review Erie County charter, suggest possible changes

The Erie County charter, the framework for county government, is undergoing a review that could lead to changes in how the county operates.

The Charter Revision Commission, charged with recommending reforms and changes, met for the first time Jan. 29 and established three subcommittees. The members agreed to meet once or twice a month between now and May 12.

The commission will also hold a series of public hearings to gain feedback.

The commission will focus on what can improve the county charter and what other counties are doing that would be worth adopting here, Commission President Todd J. Aldinger said.

The charter is subject to review every 10 years.

The last time the commission convened in 2006, the county was grappling with the fallout of a budget crisis. This year, the commission won’t have to deal with a financially unstable government, said Aldinger, who previously worked as legislative director under Republican Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

“I think that we have an opportunity to take a broad look at the organization of Erie County government, and not solely focus on preventing the next budget crisis,” Aldinger said.

A decade ago, the changes recommended by the 23 volunteers on the commission included establishing a nonpartisan county manager position to handle day-to-day operations so that the county executive could focus on policy matters. The County Legislature did not adopt that recommendation but did approve other changes.

The changes included promoting greater accountability in the County Executive’s Office and in the Legislature, developing a more informative model of budgeting, draining some of the politics out of revenue estimates, and streamlining the delivery of services from four county departments.

With the size of the County Legislature now smaller, the newly convened commission also shrunk. Its 19 members are appointed by legislators, the county executive, and other elected county leaders.