Friday, 1.21.05: State of the County
I'm on the Sounding Board at Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle newspaper. It's not as prestigious as being on the Board of Contributors, where you get more personal recognition. The Sounding Board is more like a list of opinionated people who can reliably be counted on to produce some b.s. under a deadline. Every few weeks they email or call to see if you're willing to address a particular subject. An assignment. Cool.
This week's assignment:
Power politics, town chauvinism, and turf protection wear us down as a community
Maggie Brooks is a Republican who started out as a local TV newswoman, and who then ran for County Clerk. As County Executive, she's a breath of fresh air compared to the divisive boy's club that used to be in charge. They treated the Democrat-dominated city of Rochester as if it were the white suburbanite's burden, which they'd just as soon have slide into Lake Ontario. Our Ms. Brooks is a conciliator.
But like every other county in New York, Monroe is full of budget woes and complaints about state government. The big complaint is that, unlike most states, the counties have to kick in a big hunk of the state's share of Medicaid. It's an uncontrollable cost. New York State, which used to be rich, has an extremely generous Medicaid program. It puts a stranglehold on county budgets and raises property taxes, which everyone gripes about. I figure that, until Albany figures out how to reform its Medicaid spending overall, we'll be paying either via property taxes or state income taxes, so what's the diff?
Here's what I submitted:
According to Fast Company (Feb 2005), The 9/11 Commission Report is the hottest selling new "management" book because it describes so vividly how organizations go wrong through isolating divisions and failures to communicate. In Monroe County, every suburb has its own police department, fire department, and school district. The Mayor of Rochester lost his bid to be County Executive because he advocated for some thoughtful consolidation of these services because, like the County, they are all starved for money. But no, all of our towns like to think of themselves as alone on the prairie -- autonomous, competitive, and proud.
Through painful experience, the region has shown it can manage ice storms and massive power outages. But it hasn't distinguished itself for much else lately.