By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — Paging through Hank Paulson’s 2010 nearly 500 word book, yesterday “On the Brink,” his version of the “impending financial Armageddon” that nearly collapsed the entire world economy exactly five years ago this week, I could not help but draw comparisons between the world’s teetering economy and Niagara’s fragile condition then and now.
Particularly striking, is the line he wrote about his answer to Congress’ question, “What would happen if we didn’t get the authorities we sought? He replied, “May God help us all.”
You got THAT right, I quipped to myself, you got THAT right!
Sure, there are huge differences between what happened to the world economy, and what happened to Niagara Falls, but there are definitely some fair comparisons to be drawn too.
The Lehman Brothers Sept. 15, 2008 default was, no doubt, the biggest single failure in history, drawing then Secretary of the Treasury, Henry M. Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke into an emergency meeting with key members of the U.S. Congress on this exact day to launch the historic $700 bailout of Wall Street which had managed to lose billions in so-called toxic subprime assets.
The huge debt and ensuing defaults were amassed in large part as the result of alleged predatory lending schemes that left millions stranded, upside down, owing more than their homes were worth, facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, homelessness, jobless, and to this day, for many, hopeless, many not even trying to find work anymore as the recession completely shattered their American Dreams.
The result, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, “More than six in 10 Americans say they are not confident that the country will be able to avoid another collapse, with a majority saying Washington and Wall Street have not done enough to thwart one.”
Fortunately, Niagara Falls escaped the bubble that inflated the markets, so when it burst, we were nearly immune from it; sadly, our economy had already all but collapsed decades ago, way before the 2008 crash; we’ve been wading on the brink for decades already, we’re used to it.
But that does not mean that we like it; we absolutely do not; we’ve been swimming upstream for a long time, long enough trying to catch a break, and it looks like we may have finally caught one, a little one that could begin to move us from the brink disaster toward the verge of the greatness that this “City in the Park” deserves.
Like it, or hate it, the deal struck earlier this week to move forward with the new hotel is a small step in the right direction, one which should quickly be followed by another, and another; small steps can put a lot of distance between where we were, and where we are headed.
Our Comprehensive Plan is our road map; if we stick close to it, we might inch our way toward our destination. It would be wise to remember that the Plan addresses not only the central business and tourism districts, but industry and manufacturing and our diverse neighborhoods as well.
We might also have learned along the way that it might be a good idea to invest some of our new found solvency into the broadening and strengthening our economic development team; good developers prefer to avoid the uncertainty of politics in favor of the relative predictability of the markets and good, clean, efficient, transparent governance.
And there is, of course the all-important role of the electorate, the voting residents whose will must always be respected over pretentions of protecting them.
Unlike the national view as reflected by the polls, Niagarans are expressing confidence in their city if the level of active participation in local events is any measure of strength; take a gander at a few of the events that will be happening here over the next week, especially at the Conference & Event Center on Old Falls Street and around town:
• The Aquarium of Niagara Falls, recently awarded $1.75 million to help accomplish their Comprehensive Development Plan by improving the Aquarium making it a true world class attraction will be holding their annual fall fundraiser, Winds, Waves and Wines tomorrow from 6-9 at the Conference & Event Center.
• The Underground Railroad Freedom Trail Festival in its 14th year Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Earl W. Brydges Public Library 1425 Main Street, celebrating Harriet Tubman and the history of the Underground Railroad in and around Niagara Falls.
• Word of Life Ministries Anniversary Banquet honoring Pastor Jessie Scott Saturday at 5:00 p.m. also at the Conference & Event Center.
• YWCA of Niagara’s “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women” Niagara Awards Dinner Tuesday, September 24, 2013 also at the Conference and Event Center Cocktail Reception at 5:45 and Dinner at 7 p.m.
There is plenty to do over the next few days in Niagara Falls, help celebrate our recovery from the brink; join your neighbors on the verge.
Contact Bill Bradberry at firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Bill at email@example.com