I have the best staff of any Erie County legislator. This is because, in addition to my legislative aide, Susan Gregg, I have 15 of our community’s sharpest minds working for me. The beauty of the situation is that the services of these latter 15 people do not cost the taxpayers of Erie County a dime.
For more than two decades, I have taught public administration at Canisius College. I have always stressed to students that public administration is not about writing 30-page papers for a professor.
Instead, it involves working in small groups to get things done. A large part of my class, therefore, has always involved assigning small groups of students tasks designed to benefit the community. I would often ask public officials for suggestions for student projects, and over the years they provided me with some excellent ones.
Since becoming a legislator in January 2010, however, I have used the students to conduct research on my own projects.
In January, I attended a presentation by the group promoting a new stadium complex for the Bills at the Outer Harbor in Buffalo. Despite my skepticism, I was intrigued by the concept. So I asked five of my students to study the proposal and report back to me. They spent the next three months examining the sites, looking at the experience of other cities and talking to people in our community. In the end, they recommended I sponsor a resolution expressing support for the proposal and asking the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which controls the land, to grant the groupaanine-to12-monthoptionontheland. I concurred with my students’ recommendation and have introduced the resolution.
This is not to say I am convinced the project will fly. There are still many questions to be answered. But we are going to have to eventually build a new stadium, and this proposal would involve a considerable amount of private money, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. It would also be a year-round facility with a domed stadium, hotel, convention center and sports’ museum.
To many people, I know this seems like a crazy idea. But at one time, the Erie Canal was a crazy idea. This crazy idea, though, made Buffalo what it was in the early 20th century. It was an important part of our past.
This latest crazy idea could be an important part of our future, something that enables more of my students to stay here after they graduate. Regardless, a nine- to 12-month option on land we have not done anything with for decades seems a small price to pay to find out.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@ erie.gov.