30 Sep

Control board loses true leader – THE BUFFALO NEWS

Baynes’ health-related resignation ends a term that helped taxpayers

Nobody can say Anthony Baynes didn’t give it his all. When the Amherst businessman took over as chairman more than two years ago, the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority was a wobbly enterprise, more interested in appearing fierce than in actually doing the public’s business.

Once Baynes took over, though, it was a different game. The board grew teeth and it wasn’t afraid to use them. Given the opportunity, it went from a soft, advisory status into a “hard” control period. Confronted by the county comptroller, County Legislature and two county executives over who would borrow money on the county’s behalf, the control board wouldn’t back down.

It didn’t end there, as the State Legislature, led by the local delegation, sought to undermine the control board with a measure that would allow the county to do its own borrowing. Baynes said he’d quit if Gov. David A. Paterson signed the bill. Last month, Paterson announced he would veto it.

Now Baynes is forced to step down anyway, due to all-too- real concerns about his health. Baynes, who owns and runs a shipping logistics company, has suffered three traumatic brain injuries, the most recent in 2003. He is prone to severe headaches and required therapy. Last year, he collapsed during a control board meeting. He said he regrets leaving prematurely — his term would have ended next year — but he said he and his doctors agreed that his deteriorating health made that decision necessary.

Erie County residents have cause to lament the resignation of a leader so committed to the interests of taxpayers and to insist that his replacement be equally devoted. That may be easier said than done.

Control board members are true public servants. Often targeted for vicious verbal abuse by government and union leaders and workers, they do a thankless job for no pay. Elected officials don’t much like them — at least, the unenlightened ones don’t — and government workers may not, either, especially as their unions seek to renegotiate their labor contracts. As chairman, Baynes has come in for special abuse by former County Executive Joel A. Giambra and, even more strangely, by his successor, Chris Collins, who ran as a supporter of the county board but who quickly changed sides after taking office.

That’s a tough job description to publish, but as Paterson looks for a successor, he needs to look for someone like Baynes: someone willing to take shot after shot from critics but who calmly insists on following the law and looking out for the interests of Erie County taxpayers. Baynes did that. He will be missed.