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If you want to comment on this blog ...

A small number of readers have mistaken the comment section of this blog for a stall door in a public restroom, where they feel they can write just about anything they want.

They are wrong.

As I expressed in a previous post, I'm generally disappointed at the level of discourse in the comment section of this blog. Many comments are quite good, actually, but there's a fair amount that are little more than obnoxious rants and/or personal insults. I've had enough.

I read a fair number of blogs and most of them do not tolerate the nonsense that a handful of my readers feel they have a right to engage in.

I'll outline our official posting policy below, but, in a nutshell, here the rules of the road:

You can disagree, but you can't insult. In short, no flaming.

You can't swear or use racist, homophobic and other hateful language.

You can't lie or make unfounded allegations.

You have to stay on point.

I'd be nice if your comment actually added something to the group discussion. Ideally, I'm looking for informed, intelligent discourse. I intend on making the comment section more conducive to those who want to make such contributions.

For the record, here are the paper's official rules on posting comments:

Reader comments are posted immediately and are not edited. Please use good taste, be respectful of other writers, keep comments relevant to the post and do not impersonate someone else. We are not responsible for the comments on this blog, but we reserve the right to remove any that are libelous, obscene, threatening, abusive, or otherwise offensive, and to block any user who does not follow these guidelines. Comments containing objectionable words are automatically blocked. Some comments may be re-published in The Buffalo News print edition.

This blog has received more than 870 reader comments since I began writing it in April. In recent weeks we've blocked a couple of consistently over-the-top commentators and removed about a dozen inappropriate comments. I have stepped up my policing of the comments section, and will continue to do so.

In short, I'm in a clean-up mode.

As in print, The News reserves the right to control the content it publishes online. We are in the news business and are not interested in hosting an online food fight.

How many politicians does it take ...

... to screw in a light bulb? Depends on where you pay your taxes.

I've spent some time on Kevin Gaughan's Web site, which includes a study on the cost of local government in Erie County. For the record, we pay $28.8 million a year for our current state of affairs when it comes to just cities, towns and villages.

A quick show of hands: How many think we're getting fair value?

Thought so.

We've got 393 city, town and village elected officials. There's an elected official for every 2,371 man, woman and child in the county.

Their pay, health insurance and pension premiums cost us $11.5 million a year. Their support staffs cost another $11.2 million. That works out to $24.35 per resident annually.

The most over-governed, as you might imagine, are the smaller villages and towns. The Village of Franham has a politician for every 64 residents. Almost makes the runners up seem efficient - the Village of North Collins and the towns of Brant, Wales, Holland and Sarnia, which have between 200 and 300 pols per resident.

At the other end of the spectrum, Buffalo has one elected official for every 11,656 residents, followed by the towns of Amherst, Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and Hamburg.

Here's a table with the rankings of all 44 cities, towns and villages.

Yeah, you read right - 44.

Who's getting the best bang for the buck?

Elected officials and their primary support staff cost $9.57 per resident in Amherst, followed by Cheektowaga, Lackawanna and a couple of the larger villages, Hamburg and Kenmore.

The costliest? Franham, at $93.38, followed by Brant, the Town of North Collins, the Town of Colden and the Village of North Collins.

Put another way, if you live in the Village Franham, you're also also living in the Town of Brant, and your cost per elected official for the two layers of government tops $178. For a family of four, that comes to more than $700. Not all of that is coming out of your pocket, as state aid picks up part of the tab, but geez, that's a lot of money.

A family of four in Amherst is paying under $40.

Anybody think the folks in Farnham are getting 19 times better government?

I didn't think so.

Here's a table ranking cities, towns and villages by cost per pol.

Want to pay with the numbers yourself? Here's a spreadsheet with all the details. Play to your heart's content, and by all means share with you come up with.

And just for kicks, if you didn't read my post from a couple of weeks ago, go here. It's worth it if for nothing more than the picture of Barney Fife.

On the upcoming elections

Golisano I was thankful when Tom Golisano bought the Sabres. I didn't get all bent out of shape when Chris Drury and Daniel Briere bolted. I even kept my cool when the Sabres raised beer prices. Responsible New York I'm not too sure about. I don't find much to quibble with in its eight-point mission statement. Rein in authorities, pensions, spending, etc. But for an organization that espouses transparency, the site is pretty thin soup. You learn more from this coverage from the Albany Project. Turns out most of the people Golisano has endorsed are incumbents. But that's not my real concern. Rather, for someone who wants a new brand of politics, Golisano sure is using old-style tactics. Lots of negative advertising. Throwing money around. Running former jocks for office. Will this really change the system -- or just the faces?

I don't know about you, but I'm in favor of moving up the presidential election to, say, next Tuesday. I took a quick look this morning at some national polls, and it looks like 6 to 8 percent of likely voters have yet to make up their minds. Is it going to take you people two months to make up your minds? Let's have a few debates and get on with it.

I'm going to "live blog" the primaries for state and local offices next Tuesday. I've never live blogged before, but the guys in sports say its popular with their readers, so I'm going to give it a whirl. I'm still working out the details, so stay tuned. I'm open to suggestions.

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