Niagara Gazette

August 2, 2013

EDITORIAL: Wasting time on Hamister hotel issue isn't helping the Falls

Gazette editorial board
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Lost in all the hoopla over the long-awaited arrival of casino revenue in Niagara Falls this week was an underlying message delivered by two key figures in the landscape of Western New York politics and government. 

During their respective speeches at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry Snyder Sr. — whether they intended to or not — offered some sage advice to elected officials representing Niagara Falls.

Their message: It’s never too late for two parties to come to terms on a mutually beneficial agreement, even after months of haggling and even downright personal slights. 

During his time at the podium on Wednesday, Cuomo rightly characterized the four-year revenue battle as “wasted” time. He called the period unproductive.

“What did we accomplish?” Cuomo said. “What did the fighting accomplish? What did the conflict accomplish? Niagara Falls was not getting its money. The Seneca Nation couldn’t plan. They couldn’t grow, they couldn’t build and we wasted four years.”

In his turn at the microphone, Snyder offered similar thoughts, focusing a bit more on the road ahead. 

There’s a lesson to be learned here for those in charge of Niagara Falls.

While things can, at times, become personal when elected officials are doing the people’s business, they should never get so personal as to halt all communications or stall all potentially beneficial efforts. 

It appears, unfortunately, that the city is now teetering on the brink of no return when it comes the ongoing discussion about the future of the proposed Hamister hotel deal downtown. 

Members of the city council majority — Chairman Glenn Choolokian and colleagues Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson — appear prepared to hold tight to their position that the deal requires additional scrutiny and may not be as great as initially advertised.

Mayor Paul Dyster, council members Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker and officials from the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. remain on board, arguing that it would not be wise to turn down developer Mark Hamister’s plan to invest $22 million of his own company’s money into the $25 million project. 

We’ve already offered our thoughts on the proposal which we believe will ultimately prove worthy of the city’s support. 

Now, what we would like to see is a return to a greater level of civility on the part of all parties involved.

We invite the council majority, the other two council members, the mayor and economic development officials from the state to take a break from all the rhetoric and renew their collective efforts to find a solution to this very serious issue. 

No matter what happens with the hotel project, it doesn’t benefit the city as a whole to allow a developer like Hamister to hang in the balance while the politics — the oh so often ugly Niagara Falls politics — to play out for all the world to see. 

If Cuomo and Snyder can find common ground after a four-year war of words, city officials should be able to come to terms after a few weeks of wrangling. 

During Wednesday’s press conference, Snyder closed with a prayer he said he recites to himself on a daily basis. The words are appropriate here.

“This is the beginning of a new day. The creator has given us this day to use as we will. We can waste it or use it for good.”

Ask yourself residents: How many more days can Niagara Falls, and the officials elected to lead the city, afford to waste?