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James Caflisch

October 31, 2009
Observer Today

In answer to your first question- I favor smaller government from the perspective of reducing the bureaucracy required to run it. This means we have far to many rules and regulations to adhere to that makes government cost more. Bureaucracies are perpetuated by the power elite to ensure they can create all kinds of government jobs for their political cronies and create needs that ensure someone is there to deliver cradle to grave care. In essence, they create the feeling government is the grand uncle they have to fall back on for every need they desire. Many times this come in the form of mandates with no funding to perform the required tasks.

I don't favor a major reduction in the size of the Legislature for the simple reason it will make it much harder to recruit good people with good ideas to make policy and understand the budget process to make the tough decisions. The smaller the group of Legislators becomes- the more power each one derives. If one looks at Erie County the lesson is clear. They have 15 members and a budget of $4 million. Chautauqua County has 25 Legislators and it costs our County about $800,000. Who has the Control Board and the big salaries and staffs? Erie County. If the people don't believe the Legislature is a good representative body- maybe we should look to returning to the Board of Supervisors as an alternative.

I believe it is far better to gather 25 people who can devote some portion of their time and expertise than 15 people who will have to devote a substantial amount of time and might likely be political hacks. Time is valuable to everyone. There are so many points of information coming at us in the information age of the internet, cell phones and faxes. The time we take to devote to the job is more than most people realize. The political process will also surely make it harder for someone to enter the process because costs will rise exponentially for candidates and the time requirement will also rise making it harder for people to commit their time to the position. My district covers about 150 sq. miles.

Another reason to have a larger citizen legislature is to maintain oversight of County government. There is no independent watchdog in the form of a County Comptroller. More eyes looking at things from different angles is essential to ensuring the process stays legitimate.

If school districts are going to be consolidated - there will have to be some new mechanism put in place because New York doesn't make it easy or inexpensive. Consider the merger of Chautauqua and Mayville. The geniuses built a school that was supposed to cost $25-30 million for 1,200 students. They built a school that now services less than 800 and cost $64 million. On top of that the teacher unions leveled up to a more costly contract as part of the Taylor Law and it ends up costing more for the taxpayers.

All contracts are available for review by the Legislature and reviewed as part of the budget process. I am not opposed to posting them online if people believe it would make them more transparent. Your second question doesn't go far enough to understand the criteria New York sets forth in the law for contract construction bids. Under the Wicks Law- the bidding has to be separated for individual parts of the project. This process costs taxpayers 20-30% more on every building project. The municipality has the obligation to pick among the 3 most responsible bidders. There are many horror stories of bids going to the lowest bidder and the contractor fails to perform. The County had two bad experiences that involved calling in the bonding company to finish the work and it was costly for everyone.

What is most unfortunate is the blame heaped on local government for the costs they incur from state and federal government. Local government is the most responsive and efficient level in the system. Albany has heaped many unfunded mandates on all localities to our detriment. The people on the front lines are your local governments who perform the most basic services. If it were up to us locally to decide what mandates we could live without and the State legislators quit kowtowing to the special interest labor unions- costs would drop at least 40% across the board.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Jim Caflisch

District 21



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