Publisher’s notebook: Another try at age-old problem

Are we sure we heard Fredonia village Trustee Joseph Cerrie correctly? Following a question Monday by fellow Trustee Marc Ruckman regarding discussions with the town of Pomfret in regard to consolidation, Cerrie indicated that talks have been planned and are progressing.

“We’ve been meeting with them on a regular basis,” he said.

Cerrie was not a consolidation supporter in the past. His rifts with former Mayor Michael Sullivan about any plan to team with the town on initiatives were well documented, including a plan to end separate village and town court systems.

Today, however, Cerrie sees a need to cut expenses and consolidation may be one way. This is a good thing for residents and businesses. Some may consider it progress.

Even better is trustees have a road map for more formal discussions. A report passed on to me by Dr. Rocco Doino, former Fredonia schools superintendent, was presented in 1982 as a “Report from the Committee on Village Government.”

Appointed by then village Mayor Louis Mancuso, the committee included William Locke, Norman Green, Wesley McEntarfer, Bruce Paschke, John Wrigley and co-chairs Carl Olson and Allan Austin. After going through the report, which is only 12 pages, you ultimately come to the conclusion that even after 30 years, nearly nothing has changed here or in Western New York when it comes to reducing government.

Consider some of these items taken from the 1982 report:

On the inefficiencies of too many governments: “Is it really necessary in an area with a total population of 14,000 to have two separate legislatures (town council and village board), two separate executives (supervisor and mayor), … two separate highway departments and two different clerks? Clearly not. The current situation in the village and town is only the local manifestation of a countywide problem in which 140,000 citizens support governments for two cities, 15 villages and 27 towns. It is difficult to believe that anyone would seriously argue that this is the ideal constellation of governments with which to face 20th-century problems.”

Regarding recommendations to dissolve or merge: “The major practical difficulties of this sort will probably center around the petitions taken by two groups who may have the most reason to preserve the present system – elected officials of the town and village and employees of the town and village. Would the fact that change may mean fewer opportunities for public service and employment in the area lead these groups to oppose change? There may also be a substantial group of people who would oppose structural change because of the loss of identity for historically important units such as the village and town.”

These two examples alone prove that those serving on the committee knew what they were up against.

After the proposal was completed, the village did nothing with it. Current talks between the village and town must not have the same outcome.

John D’Agostino is OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.