Please click the link below to subscribe to a FREE PDF version of each print edition of the Niagara Reporter
By: Tony Farina
“It will take a team approach to get Niagara Falls moving again,” says former Mayor Vince Anello, emphasizing that stakeholders must work together to make anything happen, and that includes arguing for a share of state parking revenue to create an investment account, as suggested by mayoral candidate Seth Piccirillo in a recent social media post.
“That’s not something new, that’s something we’ve always looked at,” says Anello, but he cautioned that while the potential new revenue source could be significant, it would take a unified approach by stakeholders to try and convince the state to partner up. A unified approach would be something new for Niagara Falls, a city with a history for political discord and failed initiatives.
There’s no mention of any legislative support on either side of the political aisle in Piccirillo’s post, and he works for an administration that has mostly played follow-the-leader when it comes to the state, most notably with the Senecas and major state-driven developments like the Hamister hotel. But sharing state parking revenue could be a godsend.
“They [the state] do very well with parking,” says Anello, “and it could certainly produce a significant new revenue steam, something the city needs. But it will take more than a lone mayor to get anything done.”
As part of his post, Piccirillo says the city needs to create a better financial relationship with New York State “that does not change on a whim.” The community development director in the Dyster Administration, Piccirillo’s history and that of his mentor does not suggest independence although he may be trying to establish that image now that he’s a candidate on his own.
In his words, he says the city would offer to match every dollar of parking-based revenue that the state offers, budgeting it in an infrastructure/neighborhood investment account. He advocates for the creation of a stakeholders group, including the Senecas, to guide how the investment funds would be spent.
This is coming from the member of an administration which has developed far less than a good working relationship with the Senecas, mostly dependent on the revenue sharing from the gaming compact to balance budgets, and not seeking common ground for expanding that relationship beyond casino dollars.
It should be noted here that as of this date, the Senecas have still not indicated whether or even if they are going to pay the state the money that a state arbitration panel ruled is owed under the compact from 2017 when they stopped making payments.
Right now, the city has relied on a $12- million loan from New York State to balance the 2019 budget pending the arrival of the casino money, if that happens. That uncertainty, along with a growing structural imbalance in the city budget that won’t be fixed without reduced spending and new revenue, puts Piccirillo or whoever wins the mayoral race on the hot seat.
One can applaud Piccirillo’s proposal, but it falls flat when not accompanied by any commitment from any stakeholders of consequence, and none are included in his social media post. How will it come together, Mr. Piccirillo, when for the last 12 years there has been little commitment to putting together and nurturing relationships that could help in a rainy day? We’ll have to see if he has anything more substantive to offer in the weeks leading up to the June primary.