Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards is running for Lieutenant Governor on the Republican ticket with gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. He is now attempting to convince voters that he is just the man to change Albany. Mr. Edwards has blamed (and continues to blame) Albany for the deteriorating state of Chautauqua County. In the August 25, 2010 edition of the Jamestown Post-Journal regarding the scheduled reduction of the sales tax from 7.75% to 7.5% on December 1st Mr. Edwards stated “New York state dumping responsibilities on us, causing us to pay more of the bill. Those two things, forced reductions in revenues and forced increases in expenses, means that Chautauqua County taxpayers pay more and get less as far as services because that’s what the state has done for us. That’s why we need a dramatic change in how the state operates.”
Since assuming office in 2006 Mr. Edwards supported increasing gas taxes, utility taxes, and sales taxes. His budgets increased the property tax levy each year of his term. While running as the incumbent one year ago Mr. Edwards claimed he brought more than 1,000 jobs to Chautauqua County, while the facts at the time were that more people were unemployed in the county than ever . He claimed he decreased property taxes over his tenure, he claimed he reduced county government, and that he could not be blamed for the deteriorating national or state economies. It worked. To my astonishment, he was re-elected overwhelmingly! He convinced the electorate that he had reduced taxes, reduced government services and brought jobs to this county.
The report of the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness released in April 2008 recommended consolidation of municipal services, dissolution of some smaller towns and villages, and consolidation of schools. Chautauqua County has a population of approximately 130,000, 18 school districts, 2 cities, 27 towns, 15 villages and hamlets. The duplication of services has gone beyond ridiculous. I have driven down Fairmount Avenue from the corner of Southwestern Drive into the City of Jamestown (about two miles) and passed five different road patrols for five different police departments. And people wonder why their taxes are so high!
The local paper, the conservative leaning Jamestown Post-Journal, prints articles daily on excessive government services resulting in excessive taxation. The county legislature has a Republican majority, the county executive is a Republican, the local talk show radio host is a Republican. Yet, when the opportunity arises to reduce services, eliminate a layer of government, consolidate a school district, or to reduce the size of the legislature these self-professed conservatives cry foul. They scream about losing local control when attempts are made to consolidate schools. They scream bloody murder over losing representation when attempts are made to reduce the number of county legislators. They vote to keep their tiny little school district, and their tiny little village. They scream about taxes, but they want everyone else to consolidate. They want services and programs cut, but not their services and programs! They want 25 county legislators for 130,000 people. Name calling, demonizing, and sheer stupidity dominate the anonymous newspaper blogs on these issues.
In the most recent county election, Mr. Edwards and the other legislative incumbents endorsed by the Conservative party, had voted to increase sales taxes, utility taxes and gas taxes. Greg Edwards, Chautauqua County Executive, is now campaigning throughout the state touting his accomplishments! Mr. Edwards is now spewing out the same nonsense he did one year ago. The only difference is these ridiculous claims are made now to all New Yorkers. Wouldn’t that be great to make all of the rest of the State of New York just like Chautauqua County? I love Chautauqua County and I love New York, but I don’t know how much more of this fiscal conservatism I can stand!