Word has come to Niagara Times that Legislature Chairman Bill Ross pulled off quite the political coup on Monday.
As most of you know, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand did a rapid-fire tour of Western New York on Monday. While much of the local media decided her stop at a grocery store was more newsworthy than the higher-level discussions that took place right in Niagara County, apparently the real story took place inside the Niagara Falls Convention Center.
Gillibrand held an economic summit, attended by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Ross, Legislators Andrea McNulty, Dennis Virtuoso, and Renae Kimble, Lewiston Mayor Dick Soluri, and representatives of a few assorted other community interests. Niagara Times is also told that Ross had the county’s hard-working economic development director, Sam Ferraro, in tow.
Apparently, as Gillibrand circled the table shaking hands, Ross — like a quick-drawing gunslinger from the old, Wild West — thrust a copy of the county’s stimulus request into Gillibrand’s outstretched hands, before enthusiastically welcoming her to the county.
The stimulus request, which Ferraro put together some months ago, has been a centerpiece of Ross’s strategy to make sure that Niagara County gets all the federal dollars it is due. While the stimulus bill that Congress passed, and David Paterson eviscerated, is open to criticism, bringing home dollars that were yanked from our pockets—and our children’s—is a goal we can get behind.
Anyway, Gillibrand is said to have spent several minutes perusing the county’s detailed funding request, and found it to her liking. (That’s probably because of Ferraro’s rumored stringent demand that most of the items the county put forward truly met the original definition of “shovel-ready” projects.) After reviewing the report, Gillibrand announced to the room that Niagara County had her full backing for their requests, and that her office would be adding its voice in support of any project that Niagara seeks to fund at the federal or state level. Apparently she even offered to seek federal grants for projects not greenlighted by the state.
Ross and Ferraro deserve some applause for this maneuver. It was, if you’ll excuse the term, ballsy. It also just improved Niagara County’s chances of getting a return from the stimulus. For that, Bill Ross deserves a lot of gratitude.