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Regionalism is not a four-letter word

The curse of Buffalo - aside from Wide Right, No Goal and the never-ending saga of the Peace Bridge - is the 1,001 cities, towns, villages and school districts that dot the landscape and suck the life out of taxpayers.

OK, 1,001 is an exaggeration. But not much of one.

Take Cheektowaga, home to one mega-mall, five school districts, a town government and, if that's not enough, a village government (Sloan).

We may have built grain elevators a century or so ago, but since then, it's been mostly silos, in the form of one duplicating government entity after another. It's rooted in a political culture that values turf above all else.

That mindset is arguably on display involving a bill passed by the state Legislature that would establish a countywide land bank to manage and rehabilitate vacant properties. Abandoned properties are a huge problem in the city and a growing one in the suburbs.

Expert after expert say that's the way to go, that it's worked in other states. Given that nearly one in every four properties in the city is vacant, they insist that it's an especially smart move here.

Byron Brown, however, is dead set against the land bank bill. Usually, it's suburbanites who oppose regional cooperation with the city. This time, it's the other way around.

Brown wants to start with a city-only land bank. I guess he thinks the suburbs can wait on their vacant housing problem. Phil Fairbanks had a story about it in Sunday's paper.

As Brown sees it, it's a matter of accountability.

"This bill is bad for Buffalo," he wrote in a letter to Gov. Paterson in which he asked him to veto the legislation. "These properties need the direct management and local accountability of the City of Buffalo."

Is it about accountability or control?

"Control is clearly one of the motivations," said Aaron Bartley, of PUSH, or People United For Sustainable Housing.  "No matter what the structure of this land bank is, politicians will seek to control that structure."

Given the city's sorry track record managing and rehabilitating abandoned housing, Brown's argument has a hollow ring.

Jimmy Griffin, Tony Masiello and now Byron Brown have had their chance to deal with the problem. It's only gotten progressively worse. People like Bartley are saying "enough is enough."

The bill is on Paterson's desk to sign or veto.

"This is a governor who's driven by good government and good public policy," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, the bill's prime sponsor. "I can't imagine a circumstance where he would veto this legislation."

We'll soon find out. 


Housing | Local Government | State government
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