Most children are taught at early age to share. Their natural tendency, of course, is to say “that’s mine” about everything. But good parents will teach them the virtue of sharing with others. The result is good for everyone when they learn to “share and share alike.”
It’s a lesson that should not be lost on governments. Too often municipalities will try to build their own fiefdoms and fight over what belongs to whom. The resulting turf wars are not beneficial to anyone.
My recent visit to Canal Fest in the City of Tonawanda got me to thinking about the good that can come from inter-municipal cooperation. I was walking through the crowd when I came upon one of the City of Tonawanda’s finest, Police Captain Fred Foels. I struck up a conversation with him in which he mentioned how helpful the City of Buffalo had been this year by loaning Tonawanda its “eye in the sky,” the mobile raised observation platform. It had, he said, been a tremendous help in monitoring the crowds and preventing problems.
This is a great example of governments helping one another out. It would not make sense for the City of Tonawanda to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy its own eye in the sky for one week out of the year. But Buffalo’s willingness to help made this unnecessary and taxpayers are the beneficiaries.
I have seen many other examples of this type of cooperation in my role as county legislator. I have attempted to promote it by scheduling regular meetings between the highway departments in my district and the county’s highway officials. The Town of Tonawanda under Highway Superintendent Tom Jones and his predecessor Bill Swanson have been super about loaning the county equipment in return for storage space at our facility on Military Road. Grand Island’s Highway Superintendent JT Tomkins has also been more than generous with his resources. In the end, this cooperation has allowed us to repair more miles of county road than we would have been able to on our own and everyone wins.
Now the state is getting in on the act. The current state budget requires counties to oversee a shared services initiative designed to save property taxpayers money through coordinated inter-municipal cooperation. In response to this state mandate, a panel chaired by County Executive Mark Poloncarz consisting of every City or Town Mayor and Town Supervisor in Erie County has proposed a savings plan. The proposal includes a wide range of items designed to cut duplication and save taxpayer dollars. One element would have the county provide additional tax processing and collection services to other municipalities. Another would see the county offering short term loans to municipalities to save them the expense of going to the bond market. Some of the proposals are quite creative. Others are rather mundane. All of them are available for public inspection on the panel’s website which can be accessed at www.erie.gov/sharedservices. The panel’s final plan must be adopted by September 15.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.