We've been critical of the Greater Niagara Newspaper (GNN) in the past for what we perceive as a lack of "investigative" journalism, so when GNN does a story that requires more than the usual reporting, we want to give them the credit that they deserve. In this instance, we're referring to the story in Sunday's Niagara Gazette which highlighted the expenses incurred by local officials at an annual Association of Towns of the State of New York gathering in New York City in February.
In essence, the story details to a certain extent the expenditures of 37 officials from Lewiston, Porter, Niagara and Wheatfield to attend the function. Niagara sent nine representatives to the event. Lewiston also sent nine, Porter eight and Wheatfield sent 11. The cost of each person was as much as $2,000 per person for, as what Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin described as, "the only training that a town official gets in their job." So we're looking at as much as $64,000 to send our local officials to New York City to gain access to various state officials and experts in certain fields.
This is a problem. I could see sending a contingent from the four towns to represent the area, maybe a representative or two from each municipality, but 37 people? Why on earth would the Town of Niagara need to send four councilman? Why would Lewiston need to send it's Assessor Clerk, especially when the Assessor is going? Porter sent it's Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman, ZBA Vice-Chairman and a ZBA board member. Wheatfield sent it's Historian. It's HISTORIAN!
Now, I'm sure all of these people are nice folks. But we're talking about a taxpayer funded trip to New York City for 37 people that is simply a waste of money. I'm sure each of them will trumpet how valuable the trip was and how much they learned from it. Of course, learning is easier when you've had a nice dinner of crab cakes, pasta, cheese cake and a nice cold brew to wash it down, as one Porter Town Councilman did.
We're looking at approximately $60,000 for 37 local officials to spend a couple days in Manhattan. But why does this event have to be in New York City? Are any of these officials who find it so easy to spend taxpayer dollars putting forth any effort whatsoever to have this event in Niagara Falls or Buffalo? Did any of the local leaders who attended the event even have that conversation with the organizers?
Here's another event that would be good for the representatives of the four municipalities to attend: Get together at Tin Pan Alley and figure out how the four towns could consolidate into one. While you're at it, bring in each of your respective Superintendents and consolidate your school districts. Then again, maybe I should be taking that trip to NYC to learn about those monstrous windmills; I might as well be Don Quixote with my suggestion of consolidation.