Leadership, not lip service

A Fredonia man who grew Red Wing, currently Carriage House, into a national powerhouse of the private-label industry had some words of wisdom for many living here if they want to make the area more inviting to business in the 21st century.

“Combine water and sewage operations for Dunkirk and Fredonia, or consolidate into one if that turns out to be practical,” Doug Manly told Rotary and community members last week. “Finally, act to eliminate layers of government in the county as was proposed over 50 years ago by the ‘Little Hoover Commission,’ on which I served. Consolidate school districts in the county on a logical and economical basis created from Albany, not local referendums because they have the power in Albany and it’s the only way it will happen.”

From the former Red Wing president who accomplished and still gives so much to the area, you would think the local leaders would be listening.

Unfortunately, however, local elected officials are not about accomplishment or listening. They are about maintaining what they have. So much so that when a business leaves, leaders blame it on greed and fail to address the high-tax, fee issue.

Those same leaders need to check their pensions. A good chunk of that change comes from the world’s financial center – Wall Street in New York. So even though they may despise that “corporate greed” publicly, boy do they appreciate it when it finds their wallets.

But what about eliminating those layers of government? Fredonia Trustee Joseph Cerrie gave good lip service on that issue one year ago. Unfortunately, in the crisis of Carriage House closing, those discussions have gone by the wayside.

“Combining the town and village makes perfect sense, of course it does,” said Pomfret Town Board member Scott Johnston at the board meeting last week. “We only need one board and one set of services, but it’s really difficult to do. In most scenarios, the village ceases to exist, and people don’t like that.”

In reality, the village has plenty on its plate. It is trying to reduce the $1.5 million budget gap created by the announcement by ConAgra on Carriage House.

But add a dose of skepticism as well to their tasks. Village leaders – full of smoke and mirrors – are also trying to quickly push through a new law to keep people off the roofs of houses in the municipality.

Now there’s a priority in a crisis.