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Common Council needs to set its alarm clock

Common council

Mayor Byron Brown has come in for his share of criticism in this blog -- how's that for an understatement? -- and I'd like to change the object of my "affections" to the Common Council in light of Brian Meyer's story on the pending reconfirmation of Tanya Perrin-Johnson as commissioner of community services.

I don't necessarily have a problem with the Council approving Perrin-Johnson -- I don't know if she is doing a good job or not. I've heard it both ways.

But I take issue with Council members not asking her a single question about the e-mails she sent to her staff last summer all but ordering them to volunteer for the mayor's re-election campaign last summer.

Sorry, but the woman is under federal investigation. If her conduct was sufficient to prompt the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to send two attorneys to Buffalo a few months back to ask her questions -- along with Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, among others -- it ought to prompt a few questions from the Council.

Council Majority Leader Richard Fontana is among a reported six members who are prepared to reconfirm Perrin-Johnson.

"She's definitely qualified to do the job," said Fontana. "And as for the investigation, she's innocent until proven guilty."

This is the same guy who just weeks ago was leading the charge for the Council to appoint Don Allen to succeed Brian Davis in the Ellicott District. Then came word that Allen's financial history includes 11 liens for failure to pay income taxes and personal bills and a personal bankruptcy last year.

Oops.

A week later, the Council came to is senses and appointed Curtis Haynes Jr.

Hey, Rich, next time we need someone's job qualifications vetted, don't call us, we'll call you.

Not to pick on Fontana. I mean, the Council as a whole isn't exactly an inspiring crew.

Yeah, the majority snipes at the mayor a fair bit, and the minority snipes at the majority, but as an institution, its bark is a lot worse than its bite. And much of the barking has more to do with narrow political considerations than broad public policy.

A while back, I took a look at its track record for reviewing and revising operating and block grant budgets submitted by the mayor and found the Council is largely a rubber stamp.

More recently, the Council was mostly mum in the face of the Brown administration jerking around community-based organizations dealing with the city's worsening poverty that are reliant on city funding.

Think of it -- when was the last time someone on the Council authored legislation involving major public policy?

It might have been Brian Higgins. 

Question: Where is the Council on the great issues of the day that confront the city -- education, crime, poverty, economic development?

Answer: Missing in action.

Just like the mayor.

Individually, there are some decent members, and Haynes in particular has potential. But as a group, they're lackluster. In this, a town crying for real leadership.

You don't find it on the second floor of City Hall - or the 13th.

As for the headline to this post -- Common Council needs to set its alarm clock -- if you don't get it, let me spell it out:

The Council needs to wake up.

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