We know the general election is just weeks behind us, but the opportunity for important change begins with the March primary when two Erie County commissioner seats are up for grabs.
Nancy McKeen announced last week she would not seek re-election next year. That announcement should serve as a loud call for community leaders in both political parties to get their names on the primary ballot, for McKeen's seat and for the seat now held by five-term Commissioner Tom Ferrell.
The deadline to file candidate petitions is Jan. 4, so the time to get moving is now. The 2008 election will set the course for county government for the next generation and beyond. Erie County deserves better leadership, and we hope residents demand it.
We're glad former teacher and community activist Joe Heyberger intends to make a second run at one of the top jobs in county government. But we hope he won't be the lone candidate for the Republican nominations for these seats.
Just as important, however, we urge the county Democratic Party to seek more than one candidate for McKeen's seat and Ferrell's seat. Vigorous debate helps build dynamic leadership, and Erie County has been lacking in debate and leadership for some time. The results are painfully obvious.
We've made no secret of our dissatisfaction with Ferrell's leadership and believe he should step down or be forced to run on his record. The best form of term limits is when voters decide to retire failed leaders, and Ferrell's record, we believe, fits that formula.
The Democratic Party would be irresponsible if it does not embrace multiple candidates for both seats, and we know this will be a hard pill for party leaders to swallow. It's the right thing to do, however, because protecting Ferrell to preserve the party's power base would be wrong, wrong, wrong.
Ferrell's been sleeping at the wheel for nearly 20 years. He has not been a good steward of tax money; he has not led the way to overcome jail overcrowding; he has not provided innovative leadership in any way, shape or form.
In fact, Ferrell has impeded progress at every turn, from talking endlessly and taking no decisive action to hijacking and upending important progress on economic development initiatives, law enforcement innovations, environmental progress and regionalization.
Ferrell sometimes is capable of talking a talk, but we've never seen him walk the walk. Party leaders need to go against their instincts and seek out a slate of candidates for these two seats. It's the right thing to do.
We believe there are leaders here who can do a much better job, so please, step up and apply with voters. The annual salary for a county commissioner is more than $54,000.