Residents Organize Downsizing Meetings

August 9, 2010 Updated Aug 9, 2010 at 8:35 AM EDT

By WKBW Programming

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August 9, 2010 Updated Aug 9, 2010 at 8:35 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - In a matter of weeks residents of the Village of Williamsville, Sloan, and Farnham will vote on whether or not their village governments will become a thing of the past.

Saturday an attorney for the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) spoke to Williamsville and Farnham residents about the differences between "town" and "village" governments.

Supporters of the government-downsizing idea say eliminating villages will save millions in taxes and revive the economy. But people against the idea fear they will loose their small-town identity and services like emergency departments.

Gaughan released the following the letter Sunday issuing a challange to the NYCOM representative, to debate the merits of downsizing:

In a dramatic illustration of New York's improper relationship between elected officials and lobbyists, local politicians today are bringing to Western New York an Albany lobbyist, whose salary is paid by taxpayers, to argue against downsizing government and reducing taxes for Erie County residents.

"For the first time in our community's history," civic leader Kevin Gaughan said, "we are being forced to spend taxpayer money to stop us from saving taxpayer money."

Wade Beltramo, who has refused to debate Gaughan on government downsizing (see letter below), is general counsel for the New York Conference of Mayors and Village Officials (NYCOM). He is a lobbyist registered under New York law to lobby state government on behalf of local politicians. His salary and benefits are paid by dues collected by NYCOM from village governments, which in turn come from property taxes paid by residents of Erie County's 16 villages.

"Any suggestion that opposition to government downsizing these past months was a grassroots effort is now proven false by Mr. Beltramo's visit," Gaughan added. "All along, it's been this Albany lobbyist, with a financial interest in preserving village governments, who has directed the strategy of scaring the daylights out of folks with claims that reforming government will harm communities."

"If Mr. Beltramo had the decency to meet me in open debate, I'd have four words for him, " Gaughan declared. "Our community is dying.' And we can no longer afford paying 439 politicians and sustaining 45 local governments while our population, young people, and jobs continue to disappear."

Williamsville and Sloan residents vote on the village dissolution issue on August 17th and Farnham residents vote on September 28th.