Why Kevin Gaughan is Misguided

Yesterday it was announced that FEMA got its new phone system hacked, to the tune of $12,000 dollars in long-distance calls worldwide, including Asia and the Middle East.  FEMA put out the warning about America’s vulnerability to this very threat in 2003.  It’s the same FEMA that handled the preparations for and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the same FEMA that then housed thousands of displaced hurricane victims in formaldehyde-laced trailers.  The same FEMA that is not accountable to the American voter.

Today it was announced that the Department of Homeland Security has halted an immigration program aimed at reuniting African refugees with their families because of widespread fraud:  Only 20% of the refugees claiming to be families were related by blood.  Now, DHS doesn’t appear to take into account that most of these refugees come from areas that have been decimated by civil war, disease and starvation, and that perhaps, just perhaps, many of these so-called families comprise men and women who have taken homeless and orphaned children in as their own.  DHS can do this at will – just as they can dictate the terms of the Canadian/U.S. border crossings – because DHS is not accountable to the American voter.

The New York State Thruway Authority has been denounced by many – for years – as a lackluster, bloated haven for patronage jobs and overpaid managers.  Yet they can and do raise the Thruway tolls at will; in fact, all 640 of New York’s authorities can and do use taxpayer money as they please because they are not accountable to the New York State voter.

Okay, now to Kevin Gaughan.  He has been trying, and failing, to convince Western New York town and village governments to reduce their overall size.  The local boards vigorously responded that they are the last places that people like Gaughan should be looking to decrease the cost of government.

Gaughan is hammering the one set of governmental boards that are (generally) held accountable for their actions.  The average town councilman lives in town, goes to church there, does much of his/her business there.  He/she is visible to their constituency.

This is not true at all of government at the county, state or federal level, and absolutely not true of the New York Authorities, FEMA, DHS or most other Federal agencies.

If we are to reduce government bloat we have to do so at the highest of levels, not the lowest.  That’s where the waste is occurring; that’s where the money spigot needs to be tightened.  Because we have control over town and village governments, they are incentivized to be frugal with our taxes; or else they will be out of office.

If Kevin Gaughan put as much energy into fixing Albany or agencies at the Federal level we’d be a lot further ahead.  But what he’s doing is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

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6 Responses to Why Kevin Gaughan is Misguided

  1. I’ve been following this Kevin Gaughan movement in blogs for the past 2 months or so and he seems to be getting the same flack from everyone… the response is usually one of 3 things. 1, local government officials don’t cost that much; 2, he should be fixing something else, like school districts, police forces, etc; or 3, yours, Albany (and the fed) is the problem.

    This reaction especially gets under my skin. This movement isn’t just about money… if you read the movement’s website (www.thecost.org) it’s made pretty clear that it’s totally inefficient to have 439 local officials in one county. No one, and I really mean no one, should feel good about trying to justify that ridiculous number of politicians. Which is why no comparable region in the country has so many… in fact, any where near as many. And that’s likely for a reason we seemed to have overlooked or thrown to the side.

    Besides that, this is something citizens can actually change. We don’t have to rely on the very politicians that have made the decisions that put us in such dire straights to fix this problem. There are average people out every night right now in West Seneca busting their butts because they know they can make a difference that’ll be more effective than whining on a blog about someone who’s actually trying to create some change around here. And honestly, I don’t mean to be so offensive, but I feel like that’s the only thing anyone wants to do about this.

    Everyone is so quick to criticize. You say Gaughan is “misguided” because he hasn’t attacked FEMA or the NYSTA. You claim he’s failing because -surprise surprise- local politicians don’t want to eliminate their own meaningless jobs (yes, if you read his study you’ll see that local politicians have made up responsibilities for themselves which are either insignificant or someone else’s job to justify their existence). I think his idea is brilliant- what he’s doing will actually make a difference, actually change things, and in my opinion, actually work. Hell, even if my taxes go up, I’d rather have a government that gets things done than one that argues constantly and plays the blame game on the neighboring/inferior/superior governments (because in some places in the county, citizens are under the control of as many as FIVE governments) to avoid getting blamed for mistakes and slow to no progress. Wouldn’t you rather something happen? Something change?? Why on earth does a village of one square mile need 5 board members and several other employees to decide what day garbage pick-up will be, or what color flowers to plant on the corner of Evans and Main? It’s a waste.

    If the public hadn’t been pushed out of local politics years ago and really knew what was happening, these politicians would have been “held accountable” for their expenditures a long time ago. Never mind that towns and villages in NY were NEVER designed to have so many politicians on their boards. I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement “Because we have control over town and village governments, they are incentivized to be frugal with our taxes; or else they will be out of office.” We don’t have control. Only an educated voter has control. Amherst is a great example – Susan Grelick successfully raised property values and as a result tax assessments went up. So she lost the next election for actually accomplishing something good because Mohan knew voters wouldn’t actually realize that she didn’t raise taxes. If you ask anyone who doesn’t have a very personal interest in who’s going to win the next town board election in any town, they’ll have no idea who’s running. Which is why West Seneca residents are taking back control. And good for them.

    In regards to your opinion that superior government is the problem, think of it this way. If your entire office was a mess, wouldn’t you clean the chair you sit on or the floor you walk on first, and worry about the bookshelves once you have somewhere to sit and stand? I’m not claiming the state and fed governments are spending responsibly. But I do know what I and other citizens can actually fix without getting the approval of local or state politicians.

    Not to mention that FEMA’s expenses don’t raise my property taxes. Poorly run governments & government services do. If the rest of the country can do it with 25% of the politicians we have, I’m sure we can handle it too.

  2. CandyMan says:

    The republic was meant to have the majority of the political power close to the governed at the county level. Too bad much of it has been ceded to the state and federal government over the years. Splitting up the remainder among the many sub-county governmental units is our version of tribalism. We go after each other with IDA’s instead of machetes. As long as that’s the system, the county and metro area will not be competitive with other counties (and states) that are more efficiently governed.

    BTW, love the laundry list of political and bureaucratic nightmares. Won’t it be swell when these same proficient government servants figure out how to get total control of the health care system?

  3. anne says:

    I see too much government tax collection and spending at all the levels–town, city, state, federal… We, the average hard working people, can not afford to pay for al of these great programs that have grand goals of “helping” anyone in any kind of “need”. It seems to me that, as populations increase and move, cultures evolve, communications speeds and spreads, socilaization deteriorates. We are living in a society that has advanced in many ways and yet needs to catch up and adapt to the changes. I am wondering if our society is promoting selfish perspectives and yet also trying to be humanitarian and “fair” beyond our current practical and financial capabilities. Cities are trapped by thier geographic borders while the larger outlying towns and suburbs have financial and population growth. The benefits of consolidating governing boards, government employees and their services are at the point that the distaste of such is outweighed by the great need to reduce taxes—both collecting taxes and spending taxes!!!

  4. Dave Giambat says:

    I agree we have too much government and too much control and regulation and taxes and interference by government HOWEVER my experience is that the US-FEDERAL and NY-STATE governments create far more waste, problems and corruption than our local ones BUT>>>>>

    When I have an issue with something the FEDS do, I get NOTHING from the President, Senators or House (either party) and NY STATE is even WORSE. Plus the feds and NY state impose far more mandates and controls on local governments than a sane person would ever. So lets REDUCE THE POWER OF FEDS and NY STATE.

    History teaches that large, centralized, impersonal, elitist governments (or businesses GM, Citi, Merrill Lynch, AIG etc) are the most out of touch, corrupt and create the most problems (wars, economic, thievery etc.)

    Let’s abolish the NY Board of Regents, the Monroe County School Board Association and NYSUT first. Then we can clean up our local school districts.

    If you like centralized regional government and schools look at Detroit, or Washington DC or Rochester, then compare to Greece or East Rochester to determine why the local ones ARE BETTER than large corrupt expensive metro ones

  5. Chris says:

    Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the high cost to the tax payer that volunteer fire companys bring. Cheektowag has 11 fire districts and 12 fore halls, look at the equipment, trucks, buildings and property that the tax payer funds. The Town of Lancaster is the same way. The tax payers in Lancaster pay more for the fire deparments than they do for a paid police departmnt.

  6. BBD says:

    Ah, but the cost of a professional team of firefighters is so much more! Their labor costs alone would run up an astronomical taxpayer tab. There are few labor costs associated with VOLUNTEER fire departments.

    I used to do some side work for one of the Cheektowaga fire districts. Much (but not nearly all) of their funding was through voluntary contributions from various fund-raisers. Given all the equipment, maintenance and ever-changing technology I was surprised at how efficient they were.

    Having just said that I must also note that they had a bar and fitness center on location.

    Thank you for your comment.

    BBD

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