Upstate columnist pans Caroline

Buffalo News columnist is unimpressed by Kennedy heir's "listening" tour.

Published December 18, 2008 8:30PM (EST)

Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson is not too impressed thus far by Caroline Kennedy's attempt to court Upstate voters in western New York:

She doesn’t even have the job yet, and she’s already acting like a seasoned insider.

In her first visit to Buffalo and upstate since trying to clear the field by clearing her throat on a phone call to the governor, Kennedy went on a “listening tour” by listening first to political insiders in private meetings.

You can’t get any more “seasoned” than that.

No average Western New Yorkers expressing kitchen table concerns. Not much of a give-and-take with pesky reporters asking questions that working stiffs might want answers to. Instead, it’s mostly private sit-downs with political pooh-bahs, just like a veteran insider.

It’s that kind of seasoning that has cooked our goose as a region. . .

If she really wants to know upstate, she could adapt the model of the senator she wants to work with and the one she wants to replace. Both Chuck Schumer and Clinton made a point of visiting every county in the state. Kennedy could make a point of visiting every one of the 939 cities, counties, towns, villages, school districts and other assorted taxing entities in Erie County.

That kind of listening tour would give her an idea of the level of duplication, inequity, patronage, inefficiency and downright waste that exists -- even as those entities now anticipate raising taxes to make up for state cuts.

After all, she won’t hear about our glut of politicians from the politicians. But maybe after hearing it from taxpayers, she could find federal incentive money to offer as leverage to build the region from the core out while shrinking the levels of overlapping bureaucracy.

Wouch. (That's a "wow" and an "ouch" combined in one.)

P.S.: I'm not sure how there can be "counties" within Erie County, but if there are in fact 939 taxing entities in Erie, there really is something wrong there.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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