Greg Edwards, Avi Rothner, and the Peddling of the Chautauqua County Home

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Privatization is swiftly changing the lifestyles of many people.  There is severe pressure from members of the federal and local governments to privatize everything from social security to healthcare.  The litany is that we have numerous government programs, which are losing money on a daily basis and are horribly inefficient because of bureaucratic miscues.  The Chautauqua County Home in Dunkirk, NY is a local example of this move toward privatization. 


Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards has been eager to sell the County Home, and found a potential buyer in Avi Rother.  The Chicago based Rothner operates a number of retirement homes throughout the country for Altitude Health Services.  Edwards believes, as many do, that the government, which employs him, cannot run this place efficiently.  His solution is to dispense it to Rothner.    Yet numerous people have publicly testified, before the council, that the County Home has been a positive place to send the elders of their family.


Profits and Services


Many people contend that if these inefficient entities were privatized they would run more smoothly with profit as an incentive.  The unfortunate problem with the profit driven mentality, which is central to privatization, is that it doesn’t account for the actual service that is provided.  For example, if you want your mail delivered more efficiently, then spend the extra money to have a private carrier like UPS handle it.  UPS is an individual company that has motivation to create profits.  However, if you happen to live in a rural place without UPS service you can still receive packages via the U.S. postal service because you have paid taxes to ensure that your package is delivered.  So, if the U.S. postal service is paid by tax revenue to take a loss for the undelivered package, the gap in delivery charges is bridged by tax revenue.  They do not have the same motivation to operate profitably and thus they are not exclusive with their services.  They operate in a way that benefits the society’s specific needs, rather than their bottom line.  Certain industries should not be required to be profitable if they are important for the entire society, which is why we pay taxes. 


Few would contend that public parks, libraries, and public schools are fruitless examples of tax dollars at work.  Some entities are more beneficial when we pool our resources.  No one wants the state to control every aspect of our lives, but in certain cases it is better to pay collectively for important projects; this is a fundamental benefit of democracy.  In the case of the County Home we want our parents and grandparents to be cared for in their advanced years, and they deserve that because they have sacrificed so our lives could be better.   We don’t want a corporate board to turn them away, nor have their services cut, because they may negatively affect the company’s profit margin.




Edwards tried, twice, unsuccessfully, to sell the County Home to Rothner’s Altitude Health Services.   The County Home needed a super majority (17 of 25) votes to sell.  When the sale was voted down for the second time, he was so inclined to make a deal with Rothner that he tried to change the law so that only a simple majority of 13 votes would be needed to sell all county property.  His political chicanery ultimately failed because the majority of local residents made it clear that they do not want to sell.  In listening to the testimony of many people touched by the County Home it is obvious that powerful memories, tied to important moments in the lives of their parents and grandparents, have been created at the County Home. It is a place where many deserving people have received vital care.  Although Altitude Health Services seems to be out of the hunt, Edwards has continues to shop for a new buyer.   But political ambitions have yet to trump the resolve of a local community which believes in the current public administration of the Chautauqua County Home.



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