“It’s all about choices.” How often have we heard this? As a father of four and grandfather of three, I hear myself saying this quite often. It’s just as true about government decisions as it is in our personal lives. I thought about this as I pondered a recent court decision.
Last month I wrote a column about the Tonawanda Coke hearing in federal district court. Shortly after my article was published, Judge Skretny ruled that the company had violated the terms of its probation. Instead of shutting them down, however, he faulted the government for not proving that the plant’s emissions were toxic and ordered more air quality tests. I thought it strange that the people would have to prove that the emissions were deadly as opposed to the corporation having to prove they were not. My hope is that the decision does not adversely impact the health of the residents of Grand Island and the Tonawandas. I also pray that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who already cited Tonawanda Coke for numerous air quality violations will, in the not too distant future, revoke the company’s permit and do what the federal court failed to do.
While on the topic of decisions, allow me to mention a couple more future choices facing Erie County government. Both of these pending decisions are haunted by the results of past decisions. The first involves the proposal for a new convention center. There is little argument that the current facility is too small. A consultant’s report suggests if Erie County is to remain in the convention business that we either expand the existing center’s footprint or construct a new one closer to the waterfront. Either way we are looking at a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars. My inclination is that we should remain in the business, but we will need a massive amount of help from the state to do so. I know that we are all state taxpayers, also. But there is a difference between using county money collected from our property taxes and using state money derived primarily from state income tax. This is because the lion’s share of state money is collected downstate. That’s where Wall Street is and that’s where the money is. Regardless, the devil is in the details and we have time to weigh our options. Toward this end, the county executive has asked for public comment on the issue. You can read the consultant’s study and comment on it at erie.gov.
The other choice we will need to make is what to do with the stadium for the Bills when the current lease expires in a few years. Some would argue that we should combine a new stadium with the convention center. I am not certain this is necessary. Regardless, the stadium and convention center decisions will be linked, as there will be only so much money to go around. If we play our cards right, though, we can make some major upgrades that will benefit our community for decades to come. It all depends on our choices.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.