September 10, 2007

Look in the Mirror

The Business Council of New York State has created a little stir by saying that Niagara County gets a failing grade in economic development. They based their "grade" on a review of the counties performance over the period of 1995-2005.

Now, that 10 year period covers both Republican and Democrat Majorities in the County Legislature. It covers a few different IDA heads and dozens of IDA board appointments. So if Niagara County gets a failing grade, it's the result of our collective ineptitude, but.............

Is there a person out there who does not believe the condition of Niagara County and all of Upstate is the direct result of failed policies out of Albany driven by downstate legislators? Issues like taxes, Medicaid reform, workers' comp, etc., etc. are holding us back, yet downstate, which isn't as cost-sensitive as upstate, has seen no urgency to reform these policies.

And isn't the Business Council of New York State supposed to be the leading advocacy group in Albany that is supposed to make the case for changes to improve the business climate.

So, if Albany is the reason for our problems, shouldn't the Business Council give itself an "F"?

Perhaps the Business Council should be looking in the mirror at their own failures and figuring out what they can do besides releasing worthless reports to improve things.


Larry S said...

We're way past Day One, Eliot, what have you done to improve the economic climate of these 37 counties who got the same "F"?

Scott Leffler said...

SailAway, you're kind of grasping at straws here, aren't you? We all know that Albany is PART of the problem, but put this into perspective with the recent Tax Foundation finding that Niagara County has the highest taxes in the US, based on percentage of property value, and you can see that Niagara County has work to do. Sure, Albany is part of the problem, but until the legislature figures out it's not the ONLY part, we'll never pull ourselves up.

becky said...

the business council is a joke...they have repackaged the same reports year after year without any success as a change agent. BIG stale government and the "not in my backyard" mentality that is the niagara county from the same group of vocal naysayers choke off any new business looking to develop here. what we need is a few visionaries in office that have the political will to drive sound economic development policies.

Mr. Pink said...


I don't completely disagree, but again if you look at the Tax Foundation rankings, the issue for Niagara Couty is not just that our taxes are too high, it's that are property values are too low. How many times have you heard someone say, "Geez, this house selling for $100K here would go for &750K downstate"

And our property values are low because supply outstrips demand because of our population loss. Our population loss is directly attributable to the lack of good jobs.

And no matter how many times a local official talks about creating jobs, the fact is they don't, they can't and they never will. It's a function of the environment for investment and 90 percent of that or more comes from Albany.

In that regard, the Business Council has been an abject failure and their reports are nothing more than attempts to cover their poor performance.

Scott Leffler said...


I'm not versed enough in the history of Business Council to dispute your thoughts ... but I can say this: One of the main reasons that we're losing jobs is because taxes are too high. So it's a vicious cycle.

Wheatfield is about the only community in Niagara County with growth. And that's cause Demler and the council have cut taxes for something like 11 straight years.

Pirate's Code said...

Scott --

Taxes are too high for our economy, to be sure. But this site, and the mainstream media, tend to focus almost myopically on the county slice our property tax pie.

Last time I checked, my county taxes remained the smallest piece of my tax puzzle -- by a lot. My city taxes (especially when including sewer/water) and my school taxes each dwarf my county tax bill. You tout Demler and the good folks in Wheatfield, but don't they also pay county taxes?

Not to say the county couldn't find ways to cut or be more efficient, but I think the numbers you are referencing from the Tax Foundation included ALL property taxes.

Someday someone will explain to me why, in this modern area, a county of 220,000 souls needs ten -- count 'em, ten -- school districts. Or why the villages of Barker, Youngstown, Lewiston, Middleport and Wilson need to exist as governmental entities when they are already inside a town government entity.

The economic climate is made poorer by the decisions (or lack thereof) from Albany, no doubt. It is a stretch to say that Washington DC has been much help in the past two decades.

Yet our own parochialism, and our resistance to change, and our longing for "the good old days" is also holding us back.

Scott Leffler said...


The taxes for the other counties as listed by the tax foundation also include THEIR city, village, town and school taxes.

And we still come out on top. I've seen time and again where Niagara County could save money and choose not to in order to benefit cronies.

Our county government is mismanaged to the degree that in five years no one has been able to tell me how many cars the county owns.

And for the legislators themselves to point blame at school taxes and say that's the real problem ... that's just crappy. If school taxes are the problem, then if the legislators really cared, wouldn't they be serving there?

Pass the buck doesn't work with me. I've never claimed that county taxes are the only problem ... but to hear the legislators tell it, they're not part of the problem at all.

Clemenza said...

This is what happens when what, 12 or more of your 19 legislators work for another government. No sense of what it means to make payroll, control costs, consolidate, etc., etc.

I was reading a profile of a leg candidate in North Tonawanda, I think his name is McDonald, who said county employees are treated unfairly. That's his platform? How and what would do to correct it? More days off and bigger raises?

Turns out he's a public employee union guy.

That's where the fat is my friend and no legislator wants to take on that fight.

William Wallace said...

I agree, Gotta get the voters out to shut these union guys down and free the state.

Scott Leffler said...


You're definately right there that having the decision makers sitting at the public trough themselves is not helpful to taxpayers.

Pirate's Code said...

Scott --

We may be arguing different sides of the same coin. My point was not to defend the county legislature, but rather to put some perspective to the numbers.

You wander off into the weeds, though, if you really believe the county and its share of our taxes have more than a minor impact on the overall economic climate of this county.

County taxes could go to zero tomorrow and we would still be far down on the list of favorable places to locate or grow a business. Why? Because we are in upstate New York and the economic climate in most of the state, and especially upstate, is not conducive to business development or growth.

Remember, 37 counties got the same "F" that Niagara did. I think that says there are larger issues at play.

cg466 said...

Look no Further then the Taliban Run School boards.This is why your taxes are so high.