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New Leadership at the Erie County Legislature

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – There has been a total change in leadership at the Erie County Legislature.

A weighted vote system, imposed by a federal court, has shifted the majority over to seven Republicans within the County Legislature. Democrat Albert DeBenedetti, who has often sided with the Republicans, defeated Democrat Lynn Marinelli for the chairmanship seat because of the new system. He replaces Charles Swanick. Swanick say the court order was issued on an interim basis and believes there will be a chance to challenge the decision.

"Once reapportionment is resolved, one way or another, his (the judge's) decision has to be finalized. He either withdraws the entire decision, dropping the weighted voting, or he chooses some other way to proceed," Swanick said. "Once that occurs, all opportunities for appeal will proceed."

Swanick was selected as Democratic minority leader. John Greenan was picked as Republican majority leader.

In accepting chairmanship, DeBenedetti says he hopes members of the minority join the majority in supporting progress for the region.

"I think all of us know that the greatest priority in this community is jobs, jobs, and more jobs -- good paying jobs. That's what we are going to work towards," DeBenedetti said. "We are going to work toward regionalism and reducing the size of government."

Also Tuesday, lawmakers began the process of keeping the eight percent sales tax rate for another year. The extra one-percent, created some 17 years ago, was to be a temporary tax.

This year, Democrats urged the new chairman to begin discussions on ways sharing a portion of the extra one- percent with struggling municipalities like the city of Buffalo.