July 2013 Column – Silver Bullets?

kh09-5155_compressI have spent a good deal of time recently thinking about the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). The NFTA, after all, relies on the county for about $30 million each year. My attention has been focused on a couple of issues in particular.

The first concerns a resolution sponsored by the Chair of the Legislature, Betty Jean Grant. It calls on the NFTA to cease allowing advertising for alcoholic beverages. It was prompted by Legislator Grant’s disapproval of the NFTA’s “beer train,” where one of its light rail trains was wrapped in a beer ad mimicking a popular television commercial. Her objection was based on her belief that the ads promoted alcohol abuse, especially among residents of the county’s urban core. NFTA officials testified at a recent committee meeting that the revenue derived from advertising is necessary to keep the system running. Without it, they would have to receive more taxpayer dollars or curtail their operations. They noted that roughly $100,000 could be attributed to the beer ads, alone.

Although I certainly see Legislator Grant’s point, I will be voting against her resolution. I think it would set a bad precedent if the Erie County Legislature starts dictating advertising policy to other governments. Still, I wish the NFTA could find $100,000 someplace else. This brings me to the second issue.

I attended a presentation on June 26th by the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex (GBSEC), the group that is looking to build a domed football stadium, hotel, conference center and sports museum on the outer harbor. The presenters included three individuals from HKS, the group’s architect. This is the same firm that built stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts and is in the process of constructing one for the Minnesota Vikings. This is not some fly by night operation, but a group of world class architects who get grand things done. Their plans for building a complex which can be used year round, will link downtown to the outer harbor and are compatible with public access to the waterfront were exciting and deserve serious consideration.

The problem is they need a 9-12 month option on the property from the NFTA to flesh out their plans and line up their investors. They have offered $500,000 for such an option. If they can realize their dreams, the group would save taxpayers the cost of an eventual new stadium, while providing a breathtaking complex resulting in considerable further spin-off development. Although this is no “silver bullet,” it certainly makes sense for the NFTA to give the GBSEC a year to see if they can enhance land that has been barren for decades. The $500,000 might also reduce their need for “beer trains.”

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.

2 thoughts on “July 2013 Column – Silver Bullets?

  1. I have some.problem with both your positions.
    It seems to me advertising is tacit approval. I have nothing against beer or beer companies but providing a publicly funded transportation facility to advertise a product that is associated with so many deaths and accidents appears to convey a mixed message.
    Maybe the brewer could agree to invest equal amounts of money in a campaign for moderation in alcohol consumption.
    I just read about how much public money has been diverted from education and social programs to build that monument to greed and wealth in Dallas, Texas. The taxpayers end up paying wealthy people big money to enhance their profits and in return get to buy overpriced tickets for maybe a dozen events a year.
    I would much prefer a public park in the outer harbor at we could enjoy ourselves and our waterways close up! Imagine that Canalside was recently and abandoned strip of lower Main Street and is now filled with joyous users year around.
    You guys should use your imagination and gets the waterfront we deserve. The outer harbor has sat for decades for wont of imagination.
    Go down to Cleveland, visit Detroit and Chicago and see what great potential exists for developing waterfront parks.

  2. Dear Kevin :
    I think you are right on point with both of your thoughts. Ms. Grant is well meaning in her proposal . However she’s displaying her usual knee jerk reaction to a couple of complaints without looking at the big picture. As far as your feelings on the outer harbor stadium proposal, as long as we build in safe guards to protect the publics access to this area, it’s certainly worth exploring this option!!!! Go for it and thanks for keeping us informed ! You’re the best ! Red Kraus, 1632 Parker Blvd.

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