Downtown Businessman, Community Activist and Candidate Gaelan Baillie Speaks

38 year old Gaelan Baillie is a lifelong resident of Niagara County, and he’s managed to accomplish something few ever have: Gaelan is a successful business owner in the city of Niagara Falls, NY. As a homegrown entrepreneur, what Gaelan has accomplished is truly remarkable. He is the owner and operator of Sight See Rentals, a recreational rental company located on Old Falls Street.

As someone who has experienced hardship and political oppression, Gaelan decided it was time for him to be more involved in politics. Not because he wants a career as a politician (he doesn’t), but because he’s fed up with our community’s lack of representation in government. Says Gaelan, “I never wanted to run for office. I feel I have to run because I have no choice at this point. I feel I have to get involved now. I’m starting to get very impatient. Tourism is moving too slow for our business owners.”

That is why Gaelan is running for County Legislature in District 6. He is a registered Conservative and he has been endorsed by the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party.

The Reporter sat down with Gaelan to better understand who he is and how he plans on helping our community. Says Gaelan, “The tourism industry is highly undeveloped. If we can develop it and make our city a year round destination, we can use the sales tax and bed tax revenue to fix the city. We need to rally around tourism as the main industry. It can be our anchor, Niagara Falls is never going anywhere. To me it’s a no brainer: Tourism is the main industry. If we can make things more business friendly and create jobs, and make it where people can invest in homes and build a life, that’s what we should be doing.”

It’s true that the city of Niagara Falls, NY has not been able to capitalize on tourism. The biggest reason for this is the fact that we are forced to compete with New York State and their seemingly unlimited resources. That’s where Gaelan could truly be useful if elected as a county legislator.

“I’ve worked in tourism for 14 years, and owned a business in the tourism industry as a rental company for ten years,” says Gaelan, “If you can make a successful business in the Falls, you can succeed at anything in life because it is one of the hardest places to own a business.” Nobody can argue with him there.

One must only look across the border at Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ontario to see what we are missing. Yes, on one hand, the Canadian side is a huge tourist trap and definitely overkill. On the other hand, our side is starved and oppressed. Gaelan, who is also the chairman of the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association, spends his days down by the Falls. Reminiscing on his humble beginnings, Gaelan says “When I first started my business I didn’t realize all the powers that are down near the park. All of the government entities that have a say in different places and sometimes overlap each other.”

It wasn’t long before Gaelan learned who is in charge within the park limits. Gaelan says, “I was told I couldn’t ride around without a permit and I told them (code enforcement) I’d like to get a permit, but there’s no permit because you guys don’t have one for me. I have insurance and I’m incorporated. Between government red tape and very strange permitting – there’s a lot of confusion and redundancy with permits. So they let me operate but I had to deal with State Parks who were very adamant about no soliciting inside the park.”

When asked how Gaelan will help our city capitalize on tourism dollars, his response was quite ingenious: We need to receive a portion of the sales tax from concessions at the state park.” Explained Gaelan, “Anything sold in the state park, 8% sales tax gets collected and it goes to Albany. We don’t get a piece of it. Not only are they directly competing with private citizens in the city but they’re also competing with the county tax payer by stealing sales tax revenue. We are not benefiting at all from this arrangement.”

Gaelan continued, “I’m going to use my voice to bring up issues and point out issues, and explain to the residents about what is going on down by the Falls. A lot of people don’t realize what’s really going on and how much money passes through here. Us residents aren’t asking for much. Fix the roads, fix the sidewalks, broken garbage totes, tree removals. Basic things we pay taxes for. City Hall says ‘There’s no money to fix the sidewalks, there’s no money for this!’ meanwhile I see the amount of money being funneled through the tourism industry.”

Gaelan says that, not only will he make noise about collecting sales tax from Niagara Falls State Park, he is also an advocate for getting a piece of the parking revenue from Goat Island, revenue from NYPA – and sales tax revenue from the Maid of the Mist. I can already hear boo-birds hemming and hawing at these notions; and it’s true that taking on NYPA, Delaware North and the Glynn family seems to be a task too big for one average Joe; but when it comes to heart, Gaelan is not exactly average (and his name isn’t Joe).

Until we as a community rise up and decide there will be change, nothing is ever going to happen. NYPA makes an estimated $10 million per day. Hundreds of millions of dollars pass through Niagara Falls State Park every single year. Gaelan Baillie is right: There is money here, and we should be getting a piece of it as the host community.

Says Gaelan, “Clifton Hill is lit up all year round and our side is so dark and creepy, tourists don’t want to come out of their hotels at night. NYPA should be lighting our side. Entities need to be paying into more systems and festivities, like the Festival of Lights. To NYPA, what is $500,000 to fund the Festival of Lights? It’s a light festival, it goes hand in hand with NYPA. Why aren’t they paying for that? $500k is a drop of water in a bucket to NYPA. Why can’t they pay and why can’t State Parks pay into that?”

Don’t you wish every local politician spoke this way? Shouldn’t our mayor stand up for the people, and start going after money from the state park, MoM and NYPA. Maybe Gaelan’s campaign will invigorate frustrated locals and encourage politicians currently serving in office.

Says Gaelan, “What has to happen is an elected official has to start educating the public about this. Sometimes the public isn’t educated on what’s happening, they just know we are being ripped off, but they don’t know how it’s happening. I don’t know exactly where the corruption is but I can tell you the arrangement is not in our favor. It’s not a fair system and it competes directly with us, and we aren’t getting our fair share of tax dollars because of the concessions arrangement.”

When it comes to Niagara Falls, Gaelan Baillie could certainly be called an expert on tourism. Maybe that’s exactly what we have needed so desperately. There is no denying the tourism element of Niagara Falls. Says Gaelan, “Nobody is talking about tourism, nobody seems to know, nobody thinks it’s viable – there is so much money being made down at the Falls. If I don’t win, at least Niagara Falls is going to hear all about tourism.”

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