Niagara Gazette

February 18, 2013

CITY DESK: Whose fault is it?

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Tomorrow as in Tuesday’s meeting of the Niagara Falls City Council.

The last meeting was a real rip-roaring affair. The place was packed with dozens of people, many of them passionately pleading with city lawmakers to maintain funding for the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, the Niagara Beautification Commission and the Niagara Falls Block Club Council.

Nearly three dozen speakers approached the microphone to address the council that day. Many of them said they planned to come back, be more engaged in the doings of their local government and do a better job of policing those who make decisions with the city’s money, namely the council itself.

Will they keep to their words? 

This week’s council meeting is on Tuesday due to the President’s Day holiday. The council reviews its agenda at 4 p.m. The regular session — the part where the public is allowed to speak — follows at 7 p.m.

I would expect another big crowd. 

Indeed, that’s what needs to happen anytime the constituents want to steer its government in one direction or another. 

One or two standing up week after week to talk about a subject usually isn’t enough to grab an elected official’s attention. 

Big crowds, on a consistent basis, now that they can’t ignore. 

It doesn’t happen enough, certainly not in Niagara Falls where reporters often outnumber voters attending local meetings of such important bodies as the Niagara Falls School Board or the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners. 

It’s one of the reasons why so many painstakingly poor decisions have been made around here for so long - the same select few, largely insulated from public scrutiny keep making them again and again and again. 

The NACC saga showed me one thing: People in Niagara Falls do have breaking point. They take a lot and they’ll continue taking it, but try to take the wrong thing away from them and they’ll wake up, remember their own responsibilities to hold their elected officials accountable and, yes, get fired up enough to spend an hour or so attending a boring, old council meeting. 

This is as it should be. It is the process we have, a unique exchange that allows the people doing the voting and paying the taxes to freely express their opinions to those who have been voted in, the ones in charge of the public purse. 

Handle correctly, it is a great system, the foundation upon which the American government works. 

And, yes, it requires commitment and diligence on the part of the people who usually have equally important things to do like go to work and raise kids.

But, no matter how difficult it may be, you gotta be there — you gotta keep going, keep reminding them time and again what you think and what you want and what you believe.

Elected officials count on the press and the public to shy away, lose interest, be too afraid to ask questions and speak out when things don’t appear to be going in the right direction.

That goes for all the community leaders, the business owners — small and large — and the working-class moms and dads who want the best for their children.

Niagara Falls is and has been a mess for a lot of years now.

Ask yourself, honestly, whose fault is it? 


Fender Bender

During the Feb. 8 snowstorm, I got into a car accident at the intersection of Hyde Park Boulevard and Forest Avenue. The accident occurred at just after 9 a.m. I was traveling in my black, 2010 Chevy Cobalt on Hyde Park heading toward Pine Avenue when the accident occurred. I’m attempting to locate any individuals who may have witnessed the accident. Any witnesses are welcome to contact me. 

Contact city editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.

Contact city editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.