So I'm reading a story by Fred Williams about officials from 12 villages in Erie County gathering to denounce Kevin Gaughan's proposal that they merge with their towns, and a scene from Blazing Saddles immediately came to mind. It's the one where Governor William J. LePetomane, played by Mel Brooks, declares, in a fit:
"Holy underwear! Sheriff murdered! Innocent women and children blown to bits! We've got to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen."
OK, that's a bit harsh, I admit. But, come on, among those leading the charge against consolidation is Terry Caber, the mayor of the Village of Farnham, population 322, who is essentially arguing that his constituents would somehow suffer if the village was swallowed up by the Town of Brant, population 1,906.
Franham has 200 parcels. Heck, my street may have more properties than that.
The village has five elected officials, or one for every 80 man, woman and child. All five were re-elected this spring without opposition. But they call it democracy.
Farnham has a one-man public works department. It's got a village hall. It's got a $319,000 annual budget, plus $99,000 if you count the water district, which costs village property owners $104,000 in real estate taxes.
All this for 322 people. At least back when the 2000 Census was taken. My hunch is the number is a little lower these days.
It's not as though Brant is lacking for elected officials to look out for the folks in Farnham. Or appointed ones, for that matter.
The town elects a supervisor, four board members, two judges, a highway supervisor and a clerk. That's nine.
There's another 20 appointed officials serving on the planning board, the zoning board and the board of assessment review.
Gaughan has calculated that villages in Erie County account for 9 percent of the population and 23 percent of its elected officials, whose salaries cost taxpayers $5.6 million in 2006.
(Update: Buffalo Pundit has linked to this item, and has included a hilarious YouTube clip that includes the "phony baloney jobs" scene. I'd never get away posting it on this blog, The News being a "family newspaper" and all.)
The "Blazing Saddles" reference notwithstanding, this is not a laughing matter.