November 18, 2008

Civic Facilities

The Buffalo News reports today that Tapestry Charter School is scaling back its plans for a grand expansion into an 88,000-square foot facility in North Buffalo. To most people – outside of faculty and families with students at Tapestry – this may not mean much. But the important thing that everyone should take note of is why.


Tapestry was in the pipeline for IDA funding vital to its project. But a component of the state’s IDA legislation that would allow incentives for “civic facilities,” such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes, expired in January, and has become the center of a debate on the merits of forcing wage mandates on private businesses.


Labor has made passage of the IDA legislation – only including prevailing wage requirements, which are currently not a part – its #1 state priority (at least until Paterson started slashing their precious programs). But in order to keep the debate alive, the State Assembly is holding hostage the ability of IDAs to offer incentives to “civic facilities” projects such as Tapestry. Which means that in order to get what they want, they’re holding up putting people to work. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.


We’re not talking pennies here....NYSDEC estimates that over $2 billion worth of civic facilities projects are being held up statewide. In this economy, where people are being laid off and there is great uncertainty about the future, is it worth it? How many jobs – most of them union jobs – would be created by a $2 BILLION investment in New York State?


The biggest irony is that the sponsor of the bill is Sam Hoyt. Why? Because not only is Tapestry Charter School in his district – but his children go there!!! Now, on one hand, perhaps Sam should be commended for not simply doing what’s best for his family (when has he?), but it seems there is a constituency that Sam should be fighting for. Parents and faculty, after years of fundraising and planning, should have plenty to say to Mr. Hoyt.


The state legislature needs to reinstitute the civic facilities piece, save the wage requirements debate for another day, and get people working. And hey – no programs have to get cut to make it happen!

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