Council hits the brakes on law

Andrew Touma

When I ran to become a Niagara Falls city councilman three and half years ago, it was based on the premise of being honest, putting residents first and listening to them, and working together with all stakeholders to make Niagara Falls a better place to live, play and work. My campaign centered on improving economic development, and in turn, growing our job market.

Since 2014, we have effectively used casino dollars to generate economic development in Niagara Falls. In just over three years we have issued seven loans and 34 grants in the amount of $1,794,771.54 to a variety of businesses. In turn, private developers invested $44,403,659.53 toward the projects. Meanwhile, 208 full-time jobs were created in addition to 63 part-time jobs. That’s progress! Now we have the recent announcement of the $42 million project to create a new Hotel Niagara.

The increase in private development in our city has made a difference in our housing market. Over the last 12 months, properties in Niagara Falls are selling at 98 percent of list price. Twenty-four to 36 months ago we were at 96 percent. Our average sales price for a home in our city has increased from $80,000 two years ago to $85,196 currently. In addition, average days on the market decreased from 43 days 2 years ago to 24 days currently. Sale prices on the average are 24 percent higher than the home owner’s current assessments.

Prior to becoming a council member, our average annual parking revenue was $571,949.69. Now our average annual parking revenue from 2014-2016 is $1,277,873.96. In fact, our total parking revenue in 2016 was $1,920,146.30.

As a lawmaker, I have worked collaboratively with others to create laws that will improve our quality of life and protect businesses and residents alike. One such law was the elimination of door-to-door solicitation. Some of our residents were becoming the victims of people posing as salespeople and causing them harm. It was through many discussions with the Superintendent of Police, Bryan DalPorto, that this law came to fruition.

Another such law that was created was the food truck ordinance. The purpose of the ordinance was to establish oversight and designate a map that would include specific locations where food trucks could park and sell their product. We didn’t want our businesses to be adversely affected by the growing food truck industry.

It has been an honor to serve as chairperson of the Niagara Falls City Council twice during my first term. I have championed Neighbor to Neighbor meetings – informal sessions that rotate throughout city communities to hear concerns. I have revived the city’s Human Rights Commission. I have spearheaded many community projects including our new skate park, Caravelle Park, 70th Street Park, Jayne Park improvements, boat dock upgrades, and many others. I’m been very responsive to the needs of our residents and businesses.

During my tenure on council, in an effort to involve residents, we created a Financial Advisory Panel. The group was made up of local residents who had expertise in finance. The members provided insight and recommendations to the council.

If re-elected, my goal is to continue to reduce our taxes. Collectively, in the last three years, we have lowered our homestead taxes 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. I will remain an independent voice but work with all stakeholders to keep our neighborhoods intact, provide efficient services, and create a stable and sustainable budget. Last year, I proposed a plan to the mayor to reduce the amount of casino dollars used in the general fund, which we successfully implemented in the 2017 budget, and use the casino dollars to wisely incentivize economic development and job growth. The only way this plan will be successful is if we continue to cut our expenses and continue to grow and increase our revenues. I will continue to provide ideas and share ways to grow our tax base. At the beginning of my term, I encouraged the mayor and the administration to increase our housing stock by organizing the development of single family homes. New housing stock will encourage new private sector investment in our city. Furthermore, we must aggressively advocate for resources from our state officials and the Governor to address housing and neighborhood redevelopment challenges. The East Side of Buffalo recently received $10 million for the next 3 years to address their neighborhood and housing needs.

In the weeks leading up to the election, I look forward to visiting your homes and explaining my vision for Niagara Falls. As a life-long resident of the city, I look forward to the opportunity to serve you for four more years and continue to build on the momentum we have collectively created.

  

Andrew Touma is a member of the Niagara Falls City Council.

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