December 22, 2009

Preparing To Govern

Every now and then, here at Niagara Times, we enjoy the prognostication business. And today is no different.

The Republican leaders of the Niagara County Legislature will be meeting very shortly to map out their vision for the next year, and to determine which lawmakers will hold leadership posts as the Majority Caucus, having won its most decisive electoral victory yet, organizes the government come January.

We’re fairly confident in the following predictions:

· Bill Ross wins a deserved seventh term as Chairman of the Legislature, a feat that insiders tell us would make him the longest-serving chairman of that body. Niagara Times has been happy to criticize Ross on various issues, most notably his failure to lead efforts to remove County Manager Greg Lewis. But, after a year that has included winning what are starting to look like real concessions from NYPA Boss Richie Kessel and his now-famous stare-downs with Francine DelMonte, we have to declare ourselves happy with this outcome. We also happen to know that he is a perennial favorite of new GOP Chairman Mike Norris’, and that Norris himself is likely to back Ross.

· Rick Updegrove continues as Majority Leader. This one is a no-brainer, because Updegrove is, honestly, the Majority’s best legislator. While we’re the first to admit the Lockport lawmaker has a tendency to make his point in the lengthiest way possible, his willingness to take on Dennis Virtuoso when the rest of his caucus would often sit on their hands has earned him the title of “leader.” Moreover, though, Updegrove’s singular command of issues, particularly where economic development and job creation are concerned, makes him the strongest Majority lawmaker.

· Clyde Burmaster holds onto the Vice Chairmanship for another term. Ransomville’s legislator, the sometimes-mercurial Burmaster, will continue in his role as vice chairman. And honestly, the role suits him. Burmaster, Ross, and Lockportian Gerald “Butch” Farnham constitute the longest-serving Majority members, and Burmaster has an ability to accomplish a great deal in a back-up role. And, while Burmaster has always signaled a desire to return to the dais as chairman, his style has always been a bit more heavy-handed than Ross’, and we expect that a number of issue in the next year will require Ross’ dexterity.

All three of these individuals’ staying on should be no shock, but given the once-turbulent nature of GOP Legislature leadership, it marks a new era for the Republicans.

On the Dem side, we’re willing to bet that Virtuoso stays another term as Minority Leader. We’ve let our displeasure with the Niagara Falls Democrat be known on numerous occasions, but the truth is he’s probably the best cage-fighter on his side of the aisle.

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