Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 19, 2012

OUR VIEW: Legislative games with your money

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Question: Who are the members of the Niagara County Legislature supposed to represent?

One would think that the legislators are working for the people who elected them into office. However, it’s quite apparent that all 15 members of the Niagara County Legislature are not working for the people and instead are more interested in playing party politics that only serve their own best interests.

How else could one explain the political posturing that goes on in the legislature chambers that will ultimately end up costing taxpayers — taxed almost to the stone age already — even more money?

The legislature seems to have entirely dropped the idea of repealing its law limiting the residency of registered sex offenders, even though case law at the state and federal levels have overturned similar laws. In layman’s terms, Niagara County’s law illegally exceeds state law and if the county gets sued over it, the county will lose.

Paul Wojtaszek (R-North Tonawanda) had proposed repealing the law, citing liability issues, but after three people spoke against repeal at a public hearing, the issue’s been swept under the rug. That’s because the minority and majority caucus leaders, Dennis Virtuoso (D-Niagara Falls) and Richard Updegrove (R-Lockport), agreed not to allow the measure to be brought up for a vote.

Wojtaszek won’t bring it up again, ostensibly arguing that the state should “catch up” to Niagara County.

Virtuoso and Updegrove, who don’t agree on much of anything, have kowtowed to three critics. Apparently they don’t want to take their lumps and make the right move. It’s the “CYB” defense, cover your butt. Hey, can’t afford to upset the voters with an unpopular move.

We know that lawsuits are going to happen, but this is a chance to prevent one. In the mean time, the caucus leaders are using verbal shots to pin the blame on the other party by playing games of one-upmanship and pass-the-buck in which the only losers will be the taxpayers of Niagara County.

To wit: “Paul Wojtaszek wrote the thing; that’s some brilliant lawyering,” from Virtuoso, on the original law. From Updegrove: “We’ll address that if (the day that the county loses a lawsuit) arrives.”

In other words, it’s a lousy law but we’re going to wait until we lose and pay tons of money before we change anything. It’s only the taxpayers’ money, and we’ll win re-election.

Cheers to the Lockport City Council which repealed a similar measure earlier this year. The councilmembers took their verbal beatings from the public and have moved on, as has the public. 

Jeers to the county legislature, whose refusal to act — and refusal to perform their jobs — will make a sex offender significantly wealthier in a monetary settlement or outright court victory.