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Heart and Soul: An open letter to the Town of Hamburg

Dear Hamburg,

For 17 years now, we’ve enjoyed a special relationship. We’ve celebrated the goodness that has helped you thrive and grow. We’ve also endured the low spots that have tarnished your “Town That Friendship Built” motto. So at this point, I feel qualified and pretty comfortable asking this question. What in the world is going on with you these days?

Costly lawsuits, vitriolic name calling, public brawls leading to hurtful town-wide divides. Hamburg, I hardly know ye.

No doubt you’ve had your share of debates and dissension over the years. Every town does. Yet your government hallways echo with the respected legislative voices of Jack Kemp, Kathy Hochul, Jack Quinn, Joan Kesner, Tom Quatroche and Mark Cavacoli, to name a few. These individuals dealt with decades of town issues and problems within the demands of their political ranks, while not losing sight of Hamburg’s greater good. No egregious lawsuits, no malicious public name calling, no political infighting to the point of town devastation. So, why now?

It’s a question being widely debated these days, from coffee shops to blogospheres. The answers are as varied as those engaged in the discussion. Yet from all that I’ve heard and read, I believe there is an essential element missing from everyone’s point of view. That is, every family, organization and/or company needs a place where they can discuss and debate in down and dirty terms, and still appear like the Waltons to the outside world OK, maybe not the Waltons exactly, but at least like a cohesive unit dedicated to positive results, as opposed to blatant individual agendas or organizational politics.

No doubt downsizing your government was a tough move. While it saved you some dollars, you pretty much bought the car before you fully understood the impact of a three-cylinder engine versus a five. And while there’s a laundry list of examples why you need those extra board members, the most essential is that you have lost to the ability to plan, discuss, argue, disagree, build consensus and move on in closed door sessions. ….otherwise known as effective governance.

Now before everyone gets their knickers in a knot over voter’s rights to full access, stop for a minute and consider. If your identity includes the title of parent, spouse, business owner, community leader---any life option that involves problem solving---you know that your best and worst moments come when only those directly involved in that duty have a chance to engage. Working to solve problems and resolving issues requires being able to say things that aren’t necessarily for publication. When a required board quorum means every gathering of your inner organization is public, you can never really get to the nitty-gritty required by human beings to advance.

Hamburg, you don’t need to know every little remark uttered by your governing officials, just as they don’t need to know what goes in your bedrooms and laundry rooms. What you do need is a town government fully dedicated to the greater good of the community over party affiliations. And you need to give that government the opportunity to do their work in the same ways that every family, organization and business requires, with a select level of privacy that allows for positive results.

I know the fact that I do not reside in the Town That Friendship Built qualifies me as an outsider. Yet after almost two decades together, Hamburg, I feel a strong bond to your community. The ongoing rancor and dissension within your government is spilling over, far beyond your town hall, and it’s hurting …your reputation and your residents.

Please do something. Vote on resizing. Elect new government officials. Call in Carl Paladino to mediate for heaven sakes. Whatever you believe will work. But take action with true dedication to defusing the political extremes decimating your town, and also with a realistic understanding that every family has its need to fight like cats and dogs and come out looking like the Waltons.



PS Paladino as a mediator….just kidding.


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2013-02-28 | 12:29:54
This article about Town of Hamburg Government is so ironic, because the letter writer worked for a County Legislator who represented and participated in the worst collapse of Erie County Government. Monumental deficits, red/green budgeting fiasco, Tobacco settlement money blown, October 2006 snowstorm audit, ECMC proceeds blown, hard control board, elected politicians whose careers ended as a result, etc. etc. Are you kidding me?
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