Niagara Gazette

February 6, 2013

EDITORIAL: Funding cuts make no sense

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The people spoke during Monday's meeting of the Niagara Falls City Council.

They packed a standing-room-only City Hall. More than 30 of them approached the podium to address city lawmakers.

The majority — all but a few — spoke in favor of continuing city funding for three longstanding community groups, including the Niagara Beautification Commission, the Niagara Falls Block Club and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. 

They're right. 

While we understand the unfortunate position of the city in light of the ongoing stalemate over casino revenue, now is not the time to reduce funding to the NBC or the block club, two groups whose volunteer members serve on the front lines in this community's never-ending battle against blight, crime and other quality of life concerns.  

There is never a good time to eviscerate a valued community institution like the NACC, a place where — as dozens of speakers noted Monday — residents and families gather to enjoy music, art, theatre and dance.

Such things may not be budgetary necessities and are certainly not as vital as, say, public safety. 

But, they have value as demonstrated by those 100 plus people, many of them taxpaying residents — who showed up Monday night to plea for the city's help in sustaining them. 

While we agree the NBC and the block clubs perform vital services, we feel compelled to echo the sentiment of the majority of the council meeting speakers who consider the NACC an especially important part of the Niagara Falls community. 

In addition to the community services offered on site, there are the 80 or so artists who rent space inside the building — talented people from the Falls, Lewiston, Buffalo and other parts of Western New York and even other parts of the country. The NACC has become a home away from home for many of them and they are contributing to the local economy every time they buy lunch at a restaurant on Pine Avenue or stop at a local convenience store for gas station. Indeed, several of these artists have taken up residence near the building, occupying previously unwanted properties on side streets near the intersection of Pine Avenue and Portage Road. 

The former Niagara Falls High School building, once destined for a date with the wrecking ball, is alive and well today, occupying a key corner on one end of the Pine Avenue Business District. 

It deserves better than to have $30,000 in city bed tax revenue cut from its bottom line, just weeks after the was allocated as part of the city's 2013 budget. 

It's a shame the three members of the council majority — Chairman Glenn Choolokian and his colleagues Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson Jr. — did not recognize the obvious before they voted to pull the NACC's funding. 

Dozens of speakers — some of them school-aged children — summed it pretty well. They said NBC and the block clubs are hard-working organizations, deserving of financial support from the city. They made it clear that the NACC is now considered a critical community resource, a place unlike any other within the city limits of Niagara Falls.

It's hard to argue with their line of thinking and baffling to realize that three leaders elected to protect their interests would think otherwise.