Niagara Gazette

October 4, 2013

HAMILTON: Milk, politicians and our housing authority

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Without a doubt, milk is my favorite beverage. For me, it has always represented the ultimate in purity, sweetness and refreshment. It is my comfort food.

But, when the Niagara Falls Housing Authority representatives showed up at a city council meeting this week, asking that the council support the repairing of a city-owned parking lot that is across the street from their own parking lot at Wrobel Towers, milk didn’t seem so sweet to me then.

Here’s why. I found myself driving down Calumet Avenue that evening after the meeting. Calumet runs through Norstar Development’s and the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s HOPE-VI Center Court project. The street has lights on nearly every pole throughout the area, and is arguably made the most well-lit community in the city. I then said to myself that if the housing authority is asking the city to repair street lights in a city parking lot that is, for all intents and purposes, used exclusively by those who service Wrobel Towers, then they are now clearly trying to again ‘milk’ both the city and its taxpayers. For me, as it ought to be for you, too, that is no longer sweet and refreshing — but it is purely something else.

You see, city planning board members, as well as myself, insist that the cost of the Calumet Avenue streetlights were included in the developers’ approved plans, and that the cost of the placement of such should have been borne by them. Instead, they stuck a gullible city with the bill. Being successful at such, apparently they came back to the council’s Committee of the Whole (COW) to ask for more milk — again for free!

Now I don’t blame them; those authority representatives are doing their jobs. Institutions do what institutions do — and that is first and foremost, “whatever it takes” to preserve themselves. But it is time that the city leaders begin to do the same — and that is whatever it takes to preserve the fiscal position of the city, even at the risk of the mayor’s and the council’s own, individual positions.

Upward of $5 million dollars of city money has already gone to the housing authority in the last several years; money that increases the housing authority’s competition with taxpaying landlords. These are landlords who pay for the services of which the housing authority uses a disproportional amount in public safety and in other public services.

But it doesn’t end there. The expansive Main Street-front lawns of the Wrobel Towers were nearly a gift from the city when the authority asked for and then received city-banked property in a non-competitive bid. That property is now no longer on the tax rolls. And if memory serves, the lawn is now assessed at almost 50-times the price that the authority paid for it. It possesses sufficient space for the authority to expand and maintain its front parking lot and to use it for the same purposes that they want to use the city’s lot; but they want to use your money again, not theirs.

But it seems to me that the housing authority has taken on the same symbiotic relationship with the city that it has long had with its residents — each depending upon the other for its life and living.

Ironically, I noticed that relationship when I recently visited a 700-head dairy farm in Gasport. The young man whose family runs the farm explained to our group that they take very good care in the feeding and breeding of their dairy stock. That ensures the farms’ success. At this particular farm, he said that they don’t buy new cows; they breed their own calves on-site. One has to wonder if local authorities breed their own government officials, too, because they certainly feed them.

In addition to that, here is something else that I didn’t know. When a cow reaches maturity and is in the process of calving, she begins to produce milk. Afterward, for the next 10 years of her life, she doesn’t have to calve again to continue to produce milk for any calf or for that farmer. The farmer said that for as long as you keep milking her, she will continue to give milk; thus making the cow dependent upon the farmer for food and shelter; and, conversely, the farmer depending on the sale of the cows’ milk for his food and shelter.

Dairy cows do get old and reach the point of diminishing returns on investment, as do the government officials of ours that local authorities milk for tax dollars, and conversely they milk us of our tax dollars. It takes the cow about 12 years to become old; but unlike dairy cows, we can put non-producing politicians out to pasture every four years or so. Those politicians ought to be happy to be so placed; because their counterparts, the old, non-producing cows on dairy farms, are not put out to pasture to enjoy their waning days. Instead, they go from the dairy case to the meat case.

Lo, I hear the hoarse mowing of some comfortable old cows in our government. What’cha gonna do ‘bout it?

Contact Ken Hamilton at kenhamilton930@aol.com.