Sharing casino jackpot - Monday 21st of January 2013

Let’s not gamble on Niagara’s future.

Local officials need to come together and determine the best way to spend funds from the casino compact.

There has been too much bickering as every municipality attempts to grab a bigger share of the pie.

The city and county are bound by the 99-h section of state finance law, which says casino funds can only be spent on economic development initiatives, capital improvements and related personnel.

Make them accountable

Why doesn’t every entity getting money have a detailed account of where the money went?

If we are going to have a state law that requires reports to be filed, it would be a good idea to have ramifications when that data is not filed.

The financial accounting also should be filed locally. For example, voters and residents should be able to venture into a government building or their state representatives office and be able to access that information. As it stands now, the reports are supposed to be filed in Albany.

Looking at 2016

“It’s still a little too early, but that day is coming sooner than a lot of people realize,” Niagara Falls Mayor Dyster said.

For the compact itself, 2016 represents the completion of the initial phase and the beginning of another.

As for the revenue distribution agreement, 2016 signals the end of the line entirely and potentially the beginning of another hard-fought negotiating process.

In both cases, local officials say they are keeping an eye on the future but are doing so with a clear understanding that someone else may be in office when the time comes to sit down at the bargaining table.

For a successful compact, the groundwork must be laid now.

“I would hope that at least from the state’s side, the state would want to renegotiate the contract,” state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, said.

Spin-off development

Eight years later, the view in downtown Niagara Falls hasn’t really changed.

There is still vacant storefronts and dilapidated housing surrounding the Seneca Niagara Casino.

“It’s pretty much what you could have predicted,” said Bryant Simon, director of the American Studies Program in the Department of History at Temple University, and an expert on casinos and urban renewal. “Since the 1970s, we’ve always wanted our urban renewal to be quick fixes.”

Falls’ residents have heard their share of redevelopment dreams and nightmares.

There has not been a quick fix for this area. At this point, there isn’t even a long-term plan in place.

However, there are glimmers of hope.

The vision of Niagara Falls as the new Times Square hasn’t even begun to materialize.

We don’t need to be like Times Square ... but we do need to take a more tourist friendly approach to development.

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