There has been much criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest push for shared services from organizations like the New York Conference of Mayors, the New York Association of Towns and some labor unions, to name a few.
They don’t like the time frame laid out to have plans put together. They don’t like that counties have been put in charge of the process. They really dislike that the state isn’t spending any money to help put the plans together. And, we hear much of the tired old refrain that local governments share services all the time and don’t need to be told to do so by the state.
Those arguments are a red herring. Cities trying to get one of the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grants didn’t carp about the state not paying any of the cost or the quick timeline to participate. Local officials often bemoan the lack of leadership from the state on issues like capping Medicaid costs, but complain when the state leads on other issues.
We harken back to a paragraph written nearly 10 years ago in the final report of the state Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, chaired by Stan Lundine, former Jamestown mayor and lieutenant governor.
“New York has a very complicated local government structure, made more so over time by legislation enacted to address specific situations or municipalities without taking a comprehensive look at the underlying statutes. Only rarely have we attempted to simplify or reform this structure, and most such attempts have been unsuccessful. Rigid municipal boundaries, outdated statutes and predictable organizational and political pressures to maintain the status quo and local control all push against cooperation, consolidation and service sharing,” the commission wrote.
It’s good to see that Chautauqua County was already working on shared services through its Regional Solutions Commission. The county is one of six entities in New York to win $50,000 for efficiency plans submitted earlier in the year as part of the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. The county is now in line to compete for a $20 million grand prize this summer with a plan involving 23 municipal entities. Projects submitted detail several consolidations and mergers. And it’s good to hear legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, say new projects have been brough to the commission’s attention.
Local governments are right when they say they share many services, but we’re not so sure a gentle shove from the state is such a bad thing if it can result in providing better services to taxpayers.