Let’s be clear about one thing here. All of the city’s efforts at something called “economic development” have, for many years, been nothing more than a sick joke. Millions of dollars in low interest loans, grants and staff salaries have been spent by a succession of Niagara Falls mayors and city councils through the various community and economic development agencies to no effect whatsoever.
Throwing money at the problem, we’ve seen time and again, simply does not work.
So it was refreshing this week to see a city official finally admit it. Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti has proposed merging and downsizing the development offices, slashing staff and, for all intents and purposes, getting the city out of the development game.
Her solution isn’t a perfect one. Like America’s “peace with honor” withdrawal from Vietnam, the effort to save face means that some vestiges of the former programs will remain. Undoubtedly, we’ll continue to see situations in which campaign contributors are rewarded after elections with tax-supported financial aid packages based on cooked up business plans designed to accomplish nothing more than to secure the funding.
Still, Grandinetti’s downsizing, combined with the fact that the city is in greater danger of falling into bankruptcy than it ever has been in the past, all but guarantees obviously doomed projects like the Holiday Market, the transformation of South Junior High School into high end condominiums or the paving over of Cayuga Island’s Jayne Park to encourage regional tourism will no longer see the light of day in Niagara Falls.
The holidays are here in full swing and drinking, depression, drunk driving and the inability to cover bar tabs become the stuff that headlines are made of.
One local daily told the sad yarn of a Niagara Falls man who managed to drink ten beers at Westby’s Pub and Eatery on Ward Road in Wheatfield before the saloon keeper discovered he didn’t have the money to pay for his party.
Cops were called, he was charged with theft of services and the $35 he owed remained unpaid as he was escorted off the premises.
We did wonder, however, how a guy could run a 10-beer tab when, as was reported, he’d failed to pay his bill on a previous occasion? But they did run his name and he’s probably feeling pretty low this morning.
A report issued this week by the Annie Casey Foundation shows that 16 percent of the young adults in New York State, people between the ages of 16 and 24, aren’t going to school and don’t have jobs. This dangerous situation reflects itself in the rates of violent crime, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse.
The rate is much higher in Niagara Falls, of course, where the rates of everything bad are much higher.
Government types tend to think the problem is caused because there are not enough government programs to address it. The reality is that an epidemic is decimating America’s youth. An epidemic lack of ambition that has produced a generation of slackers and thugs should cause any thoughtful person to seriously worry about the future of our country.
Niagara Falls Reporter Publisher Frank Parlato recently made headlines across North America for taking a stand against Hollywood motion pictures, which he believes are leading to moral decay.
Frank and I have discussed this, and while I do not agree entirely with his arguments; I do believe a country in which a non-entity like Kim Kardashian has more people following her Twitter feed than President Barack Obama has some serious issues.
Reality television, the commodification of celebrity and the rise of a culture in which fame is the ultimate goal, without regard for what that fame is based on, has most certainly contributed to the mistaken impression that you don’t really have to do anything to live a great life; that entry level jobs at places like McDonald’s are beneath you and that everybody on the planet is a very special person deserving of all the world has to offer.
These concepts – reinforced by pop culture psychiatry and an “I’m OK, you’re OK” philosophy that often finds its way into our public education system -- is most appealing precisely to those who need it the least.
The stupid, the lazy and indolent are particularly vulnerable to the get rich quick illusions promoted by much of the media in a world where an appearance on American Idol seems like a fine substitute for talent and years of hard work.