COUNTY Lax oversight led to less control

We understand why county Legislator Susan Parker, D-Fredonia, wanted to modify a proposed change to the way the county’s occupancy tax is distributed.

Ultimately, though, her fellow legislators’ history undermined her argument.

Parker raised concerns last week that the change written by state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, should be considered but that the legislature should maintain its discretionary authority to spend the bed tax as it sees fit since county legislators know better the best interests of the county.

Ordinarily, we would have agreed with Parker. Typically local control is a better alternative than having change forced at the state level. Unfortunately, local ideas to find more money to improve lakes and waterways have peetered out due to legislative inertia in the case of reprogramming bed tax money in past years, a poorly handled planning process in the case of a Chautauqua Lake taxing district or a desire not to upset certain groups like hotel owners when that group disagreed with a proposal to increase the bed tax. The county’s decisions on the taxing district and increased bed tax are defensible.

What makes little sense is not looking at the pot of money the Chautauqua County Legislature controls each year. For all the time and effort spent looking for more money to improve Chautauqua Lake, it took Goodell to look at the facts before him and realize some of the money needed to come from money the county is already collecting. Making a change isn’t easy, but then again governing isn’t easy. Goodell made a decison neither Republican county legislators nor the Republican-led county administrators who control the county’s pursestrings have shown a willingness to make.

The concept of use it or lose it is easy to grasp — but the way Henry Ford explained the concept at the height of the Great Depression, speaks volumes about the situation Parker and her fellow Chautauqua County legislators found themselves this week.

“Money is like an arm or a leg — use it or lose it. Try to save your strength by not using it, and you lose all the strength you had,” Ford said in an article printed in the Milwaukee Journal on Nov. 8, 1931. “With money it is the same. Germany put her money away to save it. But hoarded money shrinks; the value evaporates. Then Germany poured out money like water, and it was worth just about as much as water. It was cheaper to spend than to save. It usually is.”

County Republicans had local control over the bed tax. They deserved to lose some of that control by not using it.


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