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April 2013 Column - Students’ research provides look into possible future for downtown


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick announces that the 2014 Road Project List includes funding to repair Brighton Road in Tonawanda this year. After being pushed back last year, Legislator Hardwick has advocated strongly to get crews on the...

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick announces that Town of Tonawanda resident Ron Hoeltke has been named the April 2014 Citizen of the Month in recognition of his service to local youth sports. Hoeltke, a longtime supporter of the Tonawanda...

Let me add my voice to the chorus of others praising Ralph Wilson upon the occasion of his passing.  There was a misperception in some quarters that Mr. Wilson came into Buffalo and took a ton of money back to his home in Detroit.  This...

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick reminds residents that on Saturday, April 12, electronics will be collected at GM Tonawanda Engine Plant No. 1, 2995 River Road, between Sheridan Drive and Edgar Avenue. Items will be collected from 9 a.m. to...

The devil is in the details.  I could not help but think of this old saying as I sat watching County Executive Mark Poloncarz deliver his State of the County Address a couple weeks ago.

oneilj - Posted on 10 April 2013

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.