Chris’s Corner: Prioritizing Taxpayers and Public Safety

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By: Christopher Voccio

Niagara Falls City Council Chairman

In my last column, I pointed out the extremely high cost of public safety in Niagara Falls and how we can’t rebuild our city until we figure out a way to keep our streets safe at a more reasonable cost.

The movements we see in some misguided cities to defund the police and micromanage them to the point they can’t perform their jobs are reckless. Please don’t confuse those bizarre efforts with what you read here. (Read my June 7th column “Before We Castrate the Police”, found at https://m.facebook.com/notes to understand my strong support for law enforcement.)

What I suggest here for the City of Niagara Falls is unrelated to the anti-police lunacy. The Leftist moves to destroy an ordered society are insane. What follows is an effort to bring about a convergence of fiscal responsibility with strong public safety by removing a very expensive layer of government.

Over the years, Niagara Falls public safety departments — both police and fire — have become astronomically expensive because prior Mayors and Councils have allowed those departments to drive up expenses by avoiding good management principles.

The city’s police department costs taxpayers almost $25 million annually. That’s salaries, pensions, health insurance, everything. Because very powerful political forces pushed previous Mayors and Councils to make bad decisions, our cost of public safety is higher than a city like Niagara Falls can afford.

But we can keep Niagara Falls safe for a lot less than it currently costs, with a strong support for law enforcement. In the past, politicians prioritized the politically powerful over taxpayers.

It’s time to end that. It’s time to put taxpayers first.

The Niagara County Sheriff’s department is a strong force with well respected leadership, past and present. We should seriously consider having the Sheriff’s department manage law enforcement in the city. This will preserve public safety and protect taxpayers at the same time.

The Sheriff’s department, which already has a limited presence in Niagara Falls, could beef up its forces to keep us safe, unfettered by some of the restrictions that prevent sound management practices in our police department.

If the Sheriff’s department had a station in Niagara Falls, and if they hired a massive crew of new deputies, would could see even more law enforcement officers on the streets of Niagara Falls, at lower expense.

While the first-year expenses related to this move may make initial savings seem modest, going forward we would be able to take the multi-million dollar savings and begin to rebuild the city. We’ll be able to really attack blight. We’ll be able to fix our sidewalks and fix our streets. We’ll begin to chip away at our budget deficit and build a fund balance. And maybe we’ll be able to provide some tax relief.

For those of you understandably concerned about safety, consider this: We spend $25 million per year on police and we have a reputation for being a crime infested city. Let’s let the Sheriff’s department show us how to preserve order at a reasonable expense.

Fixing this problem, the incredibly high cost of public safety, will put the city on a new course of fiscal responsibility and a brighter future.

Chris Voccio is Chairman of the Niagara Falls City Council and can be reached at ChrisVoccio@gmail.com.

 


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