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Commentary: A Bloodless Coup

By Dan Lenard

Buffalo, NY – Two months ago, I received uncommon praise for my commentary entitled "No Pain, No Gain." In it I expressed my outrage that in response to the taxpayer revolt of December 2004, the power elite of Erie County forced unnecessary, painful and inconvenient service cuts instead of reasonable ones in order top make us beg for a tax increase. The only way for Erie County taxpayers to force change in how our County government operates was to endure that fraud and force out the political leadership. It started to work. More than half the of the Legislators, either by not wishing to continue working in the dysfunctional body or not to face the wrath of county voters this November, gracefully decided not to seek re-election. There was a true possibility of Anti-tax, third party candidates being elected to represent us.

Panic ensued in Albany. People who do not represent the interests of WNY, ie. Mr. Bruno, Mr. Silver and reluctantly, Mr. Pataki, who's getting out of this mess by also retiring as Governor, have forced on us, a non-democratically elected government. A so-called "soft" control Board. Think about it. While we may like him, who voted for Ned Regan as chairman of our fiscal stability, or former Gorski Budget Director Shiela Kee, or the other unknown party appointed dictators? It's a committee of Albany insiders holding the sword of Damocles over the head of the new, possibly politically independent, Erie County Legislators if they don't cow tow to the will of the special interests in Albany. This was a bloodless Coup-De -Tate. A continuation of the punishment to the people of WNY for daring to upset the status quo of party power and privilege.

If you've followed the progression, you can now see what occurred. The insane "Red Budget-Green Budget" debacle brought about the tax revolt. The punishment to us for that were the Draconian cuts in essential instead of non-essential County services. The County Legislature, under pressure from Albany to solve the crisis, eventually voted for a modest tax increase. Then there was the State Comptroller Alan Hevesi's "Waiting for the Messiah" audit of the county and his projected $118 million deficit as opposed to County Executive Giambra's projection of $60 million. The public outrage forced the State to do what it had wanted to do from the start of the revolt, Put it down by declaring fiscal martial law.

Erie County Republican and Democratic Party Chairmen Bob Davis and Len Lenahan allowed this to happen in order to maintain their stranglehold over the patronage machine. County Executive Joel Giambra played his part to perfection. In the bright light of news coverage and close public scrutiny he brazenly defied the taxpayers by continuing his "Friends and family plan." County Comptroller Nancy Naples unwittingly left us hanging by resigning and demanding Albany to create the control board. What a sham. I originally thought it was a Democratic party plot to oust the Democratic turncoat Giambra. However, when State Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno and then Governor Pataki gave their reluctant support, I saw it for what it was. It was all a cooperative conspiracy of the States political party's leadership. Party affiliation means nothing when it comes to who controls the tax pig and public employee union job machine that is New York State.

We have been brilliantly and brutally manipulated. Our desire to reform a dysfunctional political system and wrest control away from the downstate power elites has brought us less control over our fate than before. You might tell me that the powers that be in Albany aren't that smart. Well, who sits on high over looking the Hudson River and the rest of the state while we lie prostrate on our driveways, our arms outstretched, and our wallets open in homage to the political Gods of New York?

"Looking Outside the Box" with veteran Buffalo radio broadcaster Dan Lenard is a monthly feature of WBFO News.