$183,694,216.76. Total Casino revenue received to date by the city of Niagara Falls.
18,000 new jobs, created in Buffalo by New York State's Buffalo Billions Initiative.
City officials believe that number is low, because it is not counting the spin-off jobs created by developers flocking to the city of Buffalo's "Renaissance" of development.
Why them? Why not us? After all, Niagara Falls is one of the Wonders of the World, with millions of tourists yearly.
Buffalo, Canalside. Niagara Falls, we once had canals.
Buffalo, downtown reinvention. We once had a downtown.
Delaware Avenue, Chippewa Street, Allentown District, Main Street. We once had Falls Street, Niagara Street, Third Street, Pine Avenue, Main Street. What happened?
Don't say people prefer box stores and chain restaurants, because how, then, do we explain the success of the small businesses in the quaint Buffalo business districts? What's missing from Pine Avenue that Delaware Avenue has? What does Main Street in Buffalo have that Main Street in Niagara Falls doesn't?
It can't be the absence of old buildings waiting to be reborn. So, what?
Aging residential neighborhoods being rebuilt and reborn in Buffalo. Torn down in Niagara Falls. 260,000 and growing population in the city of Buffalo. 48,000 and shrinking population in Niagara Falls.
Better, fairer Casino compact with the Senecas in Buffalo than the one established in Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls, Hamister Hotel giveaway. Buffalo, medical campus, Solar City. Delaware and Allentown Renaissance.
Highways being rebuilt in Buffalo to bring people into the city and bustling business districts. Highways in Niagara Falls being rebuilt to cut off the city and business districts.
Niagara Falls, Seneca Casino and State Park. The only destinations for travelers. In Buffalo, the Casino and Waterfront, just pleasant additions to bustling business districts. Main Street, Canalside, Allentown, Delaware Avenue, Kleinhans Music Hall, museums, theater districts, reborn ethnic neighborhoods. Niagara Falls, torn down business districts, closed museums, ethnic neighborhoods being demolished, rather than developed. No theater district, one theater.
Buffalo, open waterfront being developed. Niagara Falls, surrounded by waterfronts, yet cut off from the city. Not available to be developed, controlled by the State Parks.
This is crazy! I have to stop! Why? Where did we go wrong? What sets them apart from us? What's missing from our equation?
To answer this, let's talk about what assets we do have.
#1. Niagara Falls, Wonder of the World, one of the top tourist attractions worldwide. This city, at its peak, utilized this Wonder to develop everything we so fondly remember. Vibrant business districts, economic and industrial development, spurred on by unlimited hydroelectric power. Thriving ethnic communities built on the back of this God-given wonder, naturally drawing people to stay here and make better lives for themselves and their families.
#2. Empty buildings and businesses. To some a plague, but to true developers, a dream come true. An inexpensive landscape in which to craft their masterpieces. Buffalo's doing it; so can we.
#3. A willing workforce. Absolutely. People looking for jobs to make better lives and support their families. We got 'em!
#4. Residential neighborhoods begging for rebirth, rather than demolition. Absolutely!
#5. A better school system. Compared to Buffalo, we've got the Cadillac, they've got the low-end Chevy. The only thing they can agree on is where and when to hold their next blood-letting (meeting).
#6. A designated source for economic development, "seed money". $183,694,216.76 of it. We got it! "Greenway money", a source of inexpensive power, all available.
These, my friends, are just a few desirable points we have working for us as a city. I could put down plenty more, but space is limited.
So, where's the catch? What's stopping us? A city ready for rebirth; every citizen looking for better quality of life, waiting for their elected officials (politicians) to lead them back to the Promised Land. A public waiting so patiently for campaign rhetoric to become reality. The answer is glaringly simple; too simple, I suppose, to be grasped by politicians only looking to secure their futures. We, the citizens and businesses of Niagara Falls, truly have the power needed for change. It must begin with your vote, followed by your voices being heard, and your choices to work together for a brighter future.
I have to go back to my three letters, EPC (Education, Participation, and Cooperation). Buffalo isn't doing it all on its own, and to be fair, we can't do it all on our own, either. By objectively recognizing the problems (Education), working together to get our own house in order, we cannot continue to spend more than we have. One-shot deals, such as highly-priced winter festivals or concert series, are not economic development. We must work together to squeeze out every tax dollar for maximum results (Participation). Only then can we get the Cooperation of the county (think education and job creation, rather than subsidized housing and homeless shelters).
State cooperation. Think Buffalo Billions, Harborside, Solar City, medical campus, downtown development; not just another hotel (Hamister). State and federal partnerships, highways leading into our business districts, and not around them. Waterfronts being developed for, rather than cut off from, the citizens and businesses of Niagara Falls.
The county, state, and federal governments continue to make decisions for Niagara Falls because they believe we are not capable of governing ourselves. 40 years of bad decisions, missed opportunities, and wrong directions, brought to you by our elected officials (politicians). This has given them what they believe to be just cause. By electing and re-electing the people who put us in this situation, we only re-affirm their assessment.
Isn't it time to send the message to them that the citizens and businesses of Niagara Falls are going to have a voice in their future, and that we are ready to cooperate with all parties interested in moving Niagara Falls forward?
In closing, EPC. While I still believe the answer is simple, I will never dare to tell you that it's going to be easy. For that, you need to ask a politician.