13 Apr

A control board with guts

Baynes to lead county group primed with two strong new members to make changes

Who said the following: “I’m not saying we have all the answers. But somebody has to take charge.”
Was it: a) Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra; b) Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority Chairman Anthony J. Baynes; c) Vice President Richard B. Cheney; d) County Legislature Chairwoman Lynn M. Marinelli?

Thankfully for county taxpayers, it was Baynes, owner of Extra Mile Transportation. And how’s this for even straighter talk: “My disappointment with the control board so far is we’ve been inept.” That, in the “what me worry?” ways of Erie County financial management, is offering accountability, taking responsibility, leading.

Gov. George E. Pataki should be commended, knee-deep in state budget vetoes, for naming two new control board members and choosing someone to lead it who already advocated making it a hard control board that can freeze wages. Maybe the governor watched with sweaty palms for the last eight months as his initial appointees turned the board into the Pillsbury Doughboy. Hard times demand hard solutions.

Let’s get on with the business of fixing Erie County.

How does Baynes change the equation? His first move was to say he’d get the control board’s staff out of Ellicott Square — where it paid $30,000 a year in rent to the same landlord the local Democratic Party leases space from — in favor of free county space. That’s not saving a lot of money, but it sends a huge symbolic message. Bravo.

Joining Baynes on the board will be businessman Joseph E. Goodell, former head of Outokumpu American Brass Co. In addition to running a business in a brutal industry, he served on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s project last summer that proposed a vast array of cost savings in county government, only some of which have been taken seriously. The governor’s second appointment, William L Joyce III, formerly headed Ka-leida’s board and has to be a person who understands new marketplace realities and consolidation.

Maybe this board will put taxpayers first: ‘It’s very personal to me. Like all taxpayers, this is my money we are talking about,” Baynes said last November. “I want nothing more than fair value for the money [the county] takes.”