As we enter 2018, there is no better time to reflect on what the previous year has taught us. On a national level, and even on the local level, we see the result of one of the most divided political climates in recent memory. Once thoughtful conversations or debates that were had on issues garnering various points of view have all but disappeared. Replaced instead with fights where neither party listens to the other and where “winning” has become having the last word rather than putting in the work to back up opinions with facts or logic.
The unpleasant truth is that no matter where you live, what year it is, or who the President is, there will always be issues that divide us and people who believe it is their job to perpetuate it. However, equally true, and more important, is that there will always be issues where almost everyone can find some common ground. Niagara Falls is no exception to either of those premises.
All of us can remember the firestorm that ensued after Governor Cuomo floated the idea of building a lodge on Goat Island in his 2017 State of the State Address. The community, in one unified voice, rejected such an idea and through a combination of vocal opposition, demonstrations, and utilizing the various forms of media available, forced the Governor to withdraw the idea. If anything, it taught us that we, as residents, can achieve meaningful change, but only if we come together as a community to demand it.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are passionate people in this city who want it to succeed. For many of us, it is the only home we have ever known and, in one way or another, believe that we are personally invested in seeing Niagara Falls thrive again. It’s time that we unshackle ourselves from the idea that “my opinion doesn’t matter” or that “even if I do something nothing will change” because the truth is that it does matter; and things can change.
That starts with electing the right people to office. Although there are no local elections this year, that does not mean you have to wait to get involved in the political process. Whether you are democrat, republican, independent, conservative, or otherwise, it is more important than ever before to make sure that your voice – your ideas and concerns – are heard by party leaders whose influence helps determine who your next local elected official may be.
Even after the elections are over, you need to consistently stay informed and keep up with the decisions being made at City Hall regardless of whether they affect you or not. Maybe the decision to spend more than 4 million dollars on a train station did not make a difference in your life, but if invested in our crumbling infrastructure (ex: water mains, streets, broken down communities, blight, etc.) for revitalization purposes it could have for others. Perhaps the squandering of more than 200 million dollars of casino money did not make things worse in the city, but could spending it in other ways have made things better?
These questions are not meant to spark debate, but rather to demonstrate that either one of them alone could generate a myriad of ideas, emotions, and opinions. Any of which, if shared with others, could lead to the same type of passion and energy that was created after the Governor’s lodge proposal last year.
Make 2018 the year you get involved in the future of Niagara Falls. If you were quiet before, don’t be afraid to speak up now. If you did not pay attention before, make now the time you start. Although we cannot change the past, we can learn from it so that the same mistakes are not made in the future.