Niagara Gazette

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November 18, 2012

GUEST VIEW: Transparency needed from Niagara Falls City Council

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — 2013 Community Development Budget: The city’s community development budget, made up of federal funds, is based on public participation. The department has months of direct public comment during budget drafting. The entire council received a copy of the plan on Sept. 7, and was scheduled to vote on Oct. 15. Seems straightforward, right? Enter the City Council Majority. They tabled the budget without explanation, and denied Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo’s request to present the budget. Why? — because the public’s budget did not suit the council’s preferences. They made two rounds of arbitrary revisions and found a way to take credit for a demolition strategy that includes many stakeholders. Then they tabled it again and gave the public two and half days to comment on the final version, instead of the month it was supposed to have. In the end, we voted on it without public speakers on the same day of the mayor’s budget presentation, where no one would notice. My questions: Councilmen, do you understand that transparency is a law and not a suggestion, and that we are elected to advance the public’s priorities, not our own?

The tax base: 2013 is going to be a difficult budget year. While I thank Governor Cuomo, Dyster, and everyone who worked on the $13 million NYPA agreement, difficult decisions still need to be made. Every year will be hard, and the fear of a tax increase will always exist, if we do not keep and attract residents, especially our young people. We will not be able to afford our city services if people continue to leave at the current rate, without more people moving in. If we ever want a significant tax reduction, we need a larger base. It is simple math.

In October, Choolokian told a national broadcast company that attracting new residents was not a priority, and we should focus on what is here instead. What’s here, is a city suffering from decades of population loss, the tax increases that loss created, and houses that are condemned because there are not enough people to fill them. My questions: Councilman Choolokian — please explain, to me and my fellow homeowners, why growing the tax base, and plans to keep our young people in Niagara Falls, in not a high priority to you? Do you not want to significantly cut our taxes in future years?

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