I would like to tip my hat to Robert Restaino for his excellent observations in his guest view column last Sunday in the Niagara Gazette, in which he called on the public to demand "more than rhetoric from our governor and state representatives" in dealing with the problems that many Western New York communities are facing, especially Niagara County.
Restaino, a former judge and most recently a candidate for the State Assembly, sounds like he's still eager to serve and he offers plenty of food for thought when he commented that all too often the state seems to use Western New York and Niagara Falls--as in the recent talk of a new casino for the Cataract City--without really trying to help.
The observation, of course, is on the mark as it seems that Gov. Cuomo's recent talk of putting a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls is most likely an attempt to squeeze the Seneca Nation into an agreement in the current arbitration talks to settle the long-standing exclusivity issue that has dried up casino revenue for the three Western New York host communities, a fight that has left Niagara Falls on the brink of bankruptcy.
Restaino also sensibly argues that maybe the state should pay the host communities their share of the revenue during the arbitration process, taking the pressure off the local governments, as happened recently with the $2.5 million the state gave to Salamanca to deal with their shortfall. Restaino rightly notes that local state representatives for the most part have "failed to bring this message to Albany and achieve results for their constituents," possibly because they are beholden to special interests.
Whatever the reasons, local representatives, and we must include the mayor in this category, have not delivered much of anything for Niagara Falls and Niagara County (or Buffalo, for that matter), when it comes to the gambling impasse that is crippling the area. Restaino is on the mark when he refers to the Niagara Falls City Council which has asked the question, "Who's fighting for little Niagara Falls?" The answer, of course, seems to be nobody. The mayor and local representatives haven't brought home much of anything from the Cuomo Administration during the gaming fight.
Restaino recalls that local history is filled with empty state promises by state officials "that have resulted in the diversion of revenues from natural resources in our communities, to the benefit of other areas downstate and outside of New York, while our state representatives stand by and do nothing."
Restaino's call for the public to hold local city and state officials accountable for the deteriorating conditions sounds like he's ready to run for something, and judging from his remarks, the public might be well served finding a place for Restaino to serve this community in the future.
Western New York and Niagara Falls in particular may not be getting the bang for the buck they deserve from their local elected officials when it comes to dealing with the state, and one could argue it is time to change course. We'll have to wait and see if Restaino will try again, but it sounds like he should, and his willingness to take on the political establishment is badly needed in these parts.