GUEST VIEW: A look into Our Future

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By: Glenn A. Choolokian

Another holiday season has past. Again, we were blessed with the occasion to unite with our family and friends and embrace the spirit of joy and giving that surrounds us. This is a wonderful time of the year, when a sense of community and togetherness prevails as we each share in the celebration of our religious beliefs, traditions and values. This season also brings us the opportunity to pause and reflect as another year in our city comes to a close.

The city of Niagara Falls is home to a world famous natural attraction that draws more than five million annual visitors from across the world. We have a renowned hydroelectric facility that powers a large part of the US and Canada. Our city is located on one of the world’s busiest international borders; we are only a stone throw away from the bright lights and the big city of Niagara Falls Ont. We also host a very successful downtown casino.

Yet, with all of these positives, our city is broke and declining rapidly.

What happened? With all of these natural and man-made blessings how has our city gone so wrong? 

When you think about the candidates who are looking to represent our city, do you envision them trying to serve themselves, their political party, the individuals and private companies that are behind them or the people that they represent? Which do you think is right? I think most of us would agree that, first and foremost, politicians should serve the people. 

It seems every four years when there is an upcoming important election the same individuals and companies always get involved because they are looking to gain valuable investments in our elected officials. Many are organized to extract high paying jobs, free money and special favors from our local government. These individuals and groups use these elections as a lever to benefit only themselves. We have had years of overspending, bad management and different rules for those in power.

It is no secret we have plenty of room for improvements across the entire city and those needs are growing daily. With a city that is struggling in so many areas, from decaying streets, sidewalks and a failing infrastructure to high taxes, the daily rise of crime and lack of services.

Today it takes vision, hard work and determination to build a city and to keep it vibrant and efficient. The city of Niagara Falls is under redevelopment. Our leaders must have a clear vision for the future, they must be willing to roll up their sleeves and see that this redevelopment happens in a way that preserves our rich heritage and continues to meet the needs of our entire community. They must use all these principles to move our city forward. There are so many very important issues that must be addressed now.  

With so many cities struggling throughout the country the city of Niagara Falls is no different. With the right marketing strategy private money and investments is the way that the cities revitalization should happen. I believe that government, working with the private sector, should have a balanced growth. While we push for Downtown progress, it is very important not to lose sight of the needs of the rest of our city.

The city of Niagara Falls greatest strength comes from the spirit of our people. People who work hard, who strive to do their best, and who have pride in their community. The most meaningful investments that our cities leaders can make or encourage are the ones that enhance the quality of life for people and families wherever they happen to live. As leaders in our community it is our turn to renew the promise of this once great city and to leave it in a better way than we found it. With everyone working together I believe this can be achieved.

Niagara Falls can do two things to encourage business and development: hold down taxes and step out of the way of real developers. If you can hold down the cost of doing business and keep from obstructing legitimate business then you have gone a long way toward assisting overall development. Grants and special government incentives of all types and manner won’t guarantee success if the business is wrong, if the city is taxing the business to death or if the city is hamstringing the business with paperwork and regulations. A city has to work to create a positive business climate and then let nature -supply and demand – take its course. Let’s face it there are plenty of questionable and failed projects across the city, the state and the nation that would have never been built but for easy access to “public money.” Just because you funded it, built it and then cut the ribbon doesn’t make it a success. 

I believe in responsible budgeting, accountability to the taxpayer and government transparency. I certainly don’t believe in using taxpayer dollars to fund bad projects just so a claim of “development” and “activity” can be made so we can all pretend that things are moving in the right direction. 

Responsible spending, holding down taxes and letting the magic of the marketplace do the development for us are the keys to Niagara Falls getting back on its feet. 

The future leadership of Niagara Falls must make a commitment to its residents. A commitment to improve all parts of our communities. We have to work together to address our problems and meet the challenges of tomorrow. Together we must have a vision and we must dedicate ourselves in helping to change the things that can be and should be better in our city. 

Glenn A. Choolokian is a former Niagara Falls City Councilmember and lives in Niagara Falls with his wife and two children.

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