At Niagara Times, we frequently think that Dennis Virtuoso has finally sunk as low as he’s capable of.
Usually, he manages to prove us wrong within a couple of weeks.
And, so it is with the issue of downsizing the county Legislature.
Republican Majority Leader Rick Updegrove of Lockport and Legislator Paul Wojtaszek of North Tonawanda, who many view as a rising star in the Majority, took the strong step of introducing legislation to downsize the Legislature following the 2010 census.
At Niagara Times, we certainly see the value in this approach. With the county manager form of government and Niagara County’s Administrative Code, frankly, there’s just no need to have 19 legislators anymore. Any fool could see that.
Which brings us back to Dennis Virtuoso. We imagine Dennis found himself in quite the pickle when Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska called him and asked him if he supported downsizing the Legislature. After all, even Dennis must know how popular downsizing government is on the tail of the recent referendum in West Seneca and Evans. So, coming out against government downsizing would do him no good politically.
And yet, Dennis has to know that with its plunging population Niagara Falls stands to lose the most in any redistricting. Heck, we’d even venture a guess that Dennis’s seat will probably be in the cross hairs of any redrawing of the maps by the GOP-led majority. So, how does a guy like Dennis avoid being against something hugely popular, and yet try to kill it?
He lies, that’s how.
Which is exactly what he did: “‘I don’t have a problem with it being reduced as long as the public understands they’re going to have to maybe wait longer for a response to a problem,’ [Virtuoso] said.”
“Where it’s going to hurt is the towns and villages more than anything. I know we’re going to lose a seat in the city [of Niagara Falls], but that doesn’t hurt as much. Some legislators might be representing as many as four towns.”
There’s just one little problem with Dennis’s math. A quick check with the U.S. Census Bureau shows us that Niagara Falls has, from 2000 to 2006, seen a projected 5.9% drop in its population. Meanwhile, the entire county population only shrank by 2.4% (and much of that number includes losses in the City of Niagara Falls). To use raw numbers, the population of the Falls shrank by 3,267. The entire population of the county, meanwhile, shrank by 5,380. Subtract the Falls number from the county’s, and you get a difference of 2,113.
In other words, while Niagara Falls lost 3,267 people, the rest of the county lost 2,113. There’s no way mathematically that the towns and villages will lose more seats than Niagara Falls. You don’t even have to be smarter than a Fifth Grader to figure that one out.
Breaking it down even further, each legislator currently represents about 11,600 constituents. If the Leg downsizes to 15, each will represent approximately 14,667 residents. If indeed the projections related to the plummeting Niagara Falls population are confirmed in the 2010 census, Niagara Falls is sure to lose at least two seats, likely two and a half.
Which means that, once again, Dennis Virtuoso is caught telling an untruth—and he’s doing so to scare people out in the towns who would otherwise support this measure into opposing it on false grounds.
We just wish members of the press could figure stuff like this out before they let him spew his lies.