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DEC 16 - DEC 24, 2014

Reporter Launches New North Tonawanda Column

By Sweeney Payne

December 16, 2014

My name is Sweeney Payne. I am a North Tonawanda resident. My family lives in North Tonawanda. I work in North Tonawanda. I love North Tonawanda dearly.

I have been given the opportunity as a North Tonawanda resident to create a column for the Niagara Falls Reporter. It is hoped that it may become a forum for North Tonawanda residents who >need a place to share their concerns, desires and complaints without fear of retribution.

In the past 10 years, changes have taken place in how our city is managed. Some have been good. Others have been for the benefit of the politically connected.

The nepotism that in years past was a known thing with the police and fire departments and other city departments has gotten worse. A listing of those who serve the residents of North >Tonawanda shows too many who are related to, are friends with, or owe favors to those responsible for our current one-party government.

The touted new development we read about is superficially fine. When you look behind the curtains, however, you discover a different kind of nepotism Tax credits at taxpayer expense are >distributed by those at the political level on the basis of favoritism. Conflicts of interest are ignored and voters are kept in the dark. Residents have to go to other communities for the >kind of businesses and restaurants and services they need and want. The ones supported by the economic development and business groups are oriented more toward non-residents than toward those >who live here.

In the last 10 years, the city created additional boards and commissions to have more positions to reward supporters with. There are no open meetings for most of these, no minutes available >for residents to see.

Common Council meetings have become vote yes and no sessions with little opportunity for input from residents. Decisions are made which affect residents but we have no control over those >decisions because we never know about them.

Streets throughout the city are an embarrassment. Basements full of water. Streets flooded. Oliver Street has been neglected except for certain property owners who get political plum >positions and don't have to properly repair their properties. We have our once wonderful downtown shopping center and our Oliver Street shopping center. We have no overnight accommodations >in our city for returning former residents or our out of town family members to stay in. Our police and fire dispatch was shipped to Lockport and response times went from three to four >minutes to 10-12 minutes. Police don't patrol the downtown bar crowds who litter and cause damage in the late evening and early morning. Residents complain they find drug addicts and >alcoholics taking over public parks.

We have shops and restaurants but everyday staples we need require us to go to Budwey's or Tops, both of which are, for those close to downtown, which has gotten so much attention bringing in >all those bars and restaurants, on the other side of the city. To do serious shopping, we have to drive to Amherst, Buffalo, the Town of Tonawanda or Niagara Falls. We don't all want Walmart >or dollar store products. Our downtown wasn't all bars and restaurants in the past, with sprinkling of pleasant shops, none of which offer our every day staples.

We lost most of the family or diner-type restaurants and have too many expensive restaurants fighting for the same local clientele. We're stuck with fast food chains or budget-stretching >choices--and have to go to other communities for our kind of restaurant food.

We were supposed to have a commerce park where Buffalo Bolt was. There is only one new industry there, and how it got its part of the commerce park is rife with conflicts of interest. The >only other action there was the installation of a fence paid for with State tax funds nearly 10 years ago and an expansion of an existing business on the northern border of the commerce park >area. Instead of developing this commerce park and bringing in tax-paying businesses, we have a marina most of us don't want, a highly-touted downtown which is mostly expensive bars and >restaurants and, of course, we have the Walmart store at the Wheatfield border, as well as a Meadow Drive extension we're trying to find a need for. We have a lot of concerts and other >events which no one ever informs us of the cost.

Out-of-town developers have no regard for our residents other than about the money they can make on them. The cronyism and operating our City as if it is a golden pot of patronage and >favoritism for the special few needs more daylight shined on it.

Sadly, our local daily newspaper has come to an end. One of the important columns, called "Sound Off," provided an anonymous way to express opinions on a variety of community situations >without fear of retaliation. Hopefully, our column will become a venue in which those who have opinions to express can see them in print.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has done a noble job, some would consider it a dirty job, of bringing to light goings on in Niagara Falls and other Niagara County communities. North Tonawanda has >needed a publication to do the same for it.

I want this column to be a platform for residents of North Tonawanda to get their concerns out without fear of retaliation in the tradition of the Reporter and Sound Off. If warranted, we >will follow through on those concerns and seek to bring them to public view.

For readers who live in North Tonawanda, please give us your feedback. Tell your friends and family members about our new opportunity to be heard.

The column will also share some of the wonderful things that go on.

May I hear from you?

Email me at





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