By Glenn Choolokian
Niagara Gazette — On Jan. 7 I had the honor of being named as chairman of the Niagara Falls City Council. As I accept the gavel from outgoing Chairman Sam Fruscione I want to thank Sam for his service to our city, for his leadership during a challenging 2012, and for the support he gave me throughout last year.
There are a lot of challenges facing our city this year and the most critical is the question of casino revenue. We could receive all the money owed us or zero dollars owed us as the arbitration process plays out. An added possible outcome of the arbitration is a ruling allowing private casino operation in the state and maybe Niagara Falls: “Las Vegas” gaming in the state or in Niagara Falls presents added challenges for our city. There’s nothing we can do to influence the arbitration process one way or the other, Niagara Falls is along for the ride and will have to live with the results.
The casino revenue impasse has forced city government to trim its budget and learn to live within its means. Because of this the 2012 city council worked as a team to hold the line on homeowner taxes while reducing business taxes. We held the line on city services and worked to set a tone for more accountable city spending now and into the future. With budgets tightening all the way from the kitchen table to every government level we have to learn to do more with less.
Bob Anderson, my respected fellow council member, has a favorite saying: “Many hands make for light work.” Good work becomes good results when the many hands join in a spirit of consistent cooperation. In 2013 our city council, the administration, and our residents are going to have to work cooperatively to meet the challenges that face Niagara Falls.
I want to see our downtown continue to develop but we have to realize that true economic development grows from the private sector through private investment. The best thing government can do to encourage private sector growth is to hold down taxes and create a healthy business climate so a positive development process can result. The best thing government can do is to step out of the way and allow the growth take place. We step out of the way by limiting government involvement and avoiding micro-management through outdated or inappropriate laws and ordinances. “Give us the business!” is the message our city needs to send to investors and developers from across the region, state and nation.
With regard to public safety I’m pleased to write that our new police chief, Bryan Dal Porto, is working with the council to bring additional police coverage to the street. The chief has our full support in developing crime-fighting initiatives to protect our residents.
As 2013 unfolds the council is going to work to put new ways of doing business on the table for discussion. Any initiative that offers a genuine savings plus added efficiency will be considered.
The political system isn’t pretty and sometimes it’s needlessly frustrating but it’s the only system we have with which to govern. The amount of good we can accomplish through our political system is limited only by the honesty and sincerity we bring to the job. Honesty and sincerity are in short supply in the political world and you can never have too much of either.
Our city is struggling with population loss, job loss, a lack of development, blighted buildings and a casino revenue situation beyond our control. While the positives seem to be in short supply we do have good news. The good news is that while the city has shrunk in size we have faithful, hard-working residents who remain. The good news is that while development has been inconsistent we have the natural blessing of our waterfall to work with. The good news is that while many other cities would be tempted to throw in the towel Niagara Falls has proven to be tough, determined and willing to do the hard work to make things better.
We can get it done because many hands make for light work.Glenn A. Choolokian is the chairman of Niagara Falls City Council and lives in Niagara Falls with his wife and two children.