Niagara Gazette

July 1, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Lower taxes should be focus of casino cash

By Russ Vesci
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — As a candidate for Niagara Falls City Council in the upcoming November general election I would like to share a few thoughts and briefly state what I believe we need to do to strengthen our city as a place to live and work.

I’m not going to use good newspaper space to turn this article into a civics lecture debating the powers of the city council versus the powers of the mayor. Niagara Falls needs a lot of things but one thing it doesn’t need is another candidate writing another article explaining how local government should work. Ask the average taxpayer how government should work. They may not be able to recite from their ninth grade civics textbook but as taxpayers they know darn well how it’s all supposed to come together for the good of their community.

We recently received good news with the settlement of the casino cash impasse. Niagara Falls is going to receive $89 million. After all city commitments are met and all other participating agencies have received their share of the revenue our city could possibly have $15 million or more left over for city use.

One very important question: How are we going to manage the millions of dollars? If we spend like we did in the past then we’ll have the same problems in the future.

Both mayor and city council are going to have to sit down and work out a casino cash plan that will be open to the public and worked out cooperatively. Both levels of government, mayor and council, will have to have to put their egos and past disagreements aside for the good of this city.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and it’s kind of obvious that the city should have done a better job managing the casino dollars up to this point. The report released by the state comptroller a few weeks ago explained what a bad job the city did of managing the casino cash in the past. But we already knew that. The big question is what are we going do to make sure we don’t get the same results now that we’re getting a second kick at the can?

Economic development: it’s not city government’s job to build or to invest taxpayer dollars in business ventures. It should be city government’s job to hold down taxes and provide for public safety while maintaining streets, parks and infrastructure.

Lower taxes, safe streets and a well maintained infrastructure create an environment that: 1) Encourages residents to invest in the city through home ownership and 2) Encourages businesses to grow and to locate here.

City government can build the atmosphere to make positive things happen. It can’t and it shouldn’t try to do the job of private development. City government should not engage in costly construction projects that are better left to private investors operating with private money.

Doing flashy projects is exciting and dramatic in the eyes of some elected officials. But the plain truth is that if we’re looking for a single “game changer” for Niagara Falls that change maker comes in two words: lower taxes.

Imagine if we could lower taxes. Imagine if the news story, for a change, wasn’t “Niagara Falls bond rating drops again,” but instead the headline read, “Niagara Falls lowers taxes again.”

That would be great news and that sort of positive news travels fast in the business community. Combine a realistic tax reduction plan with the most famous waterfall in the world and we could have a one-two redevelopment program that would have the state, the nation and the world talking. With a tax cutting initiative we could see a time in our city’s future where people would want to move here and live instead of just driving through for a couple of hours in the summer.

Let’s get our financial house in order, let’s take control of our future and let’s work together to do the things that will make Niagara Falls a competitor again.

What are we waiting for?

Russ Vesci is a candidate for the Niagara Falls City Council.