On Monday, Niagara Times took Antoine Thompson and Francine DelMonte to task for failing to bring home more than table scraps for Niagara County from New York State’s cut of the federal stimulus bill. We never particularly liked the stimulus bill, but, we’ve always reasoned, if we’re going to get stuck, and our children are going to get stuck, and our grandchildren are going to get stuck paying for this spending spree, then Niagara County might as well get what’s coming to it.
Unfortunately, we noted, Niagara County’s take from stimulus funds is a pathetic $113 per capita, versus a national average of $181 per capita and a statewide average of $177 per capita. And, we stand by our belief that this shows us just how pathetically irrelevant DelMonte and Thompson are even within their own party.
However, new information that has reached us from sources inside county government points to another culprit: County Manager Gregory D. Lewis.
It seems that, when the county decided to expend $30,000 from the county’s disappearing casino revenue on a lobbyist—a move we applauded at the time—they left management of the whole program to Lewis. In fact, Lewis was even allowed to select the lobbying firm.
So, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that Lewis is wasting the time and efforts of that lobbying firm, Capitol Public Strategies, on his pet projects, rather than the economic stimulus projects identified by Commissioner of Economic Development Sam Ferraro.
Ferraro devised both a 25-page federal proposal and a more compact state proposal that outlined the “shovel-ready” programs in the county. In Ferraro’s package, there were projects to build and repair roads and bridges, ensure safe drinking water, fund agribusiness development and market start-up companies, and, perhaps most critically in this new Yahoo! era, improve infrastructure at the Buffalo Bolt Business Park in North Tonawanda and the Town of Lockport Industrial Park.
So, one would imagine Greg Lewis is pushing our lobbyists to get results on, say, the “bridge deck sealing” of 27 bridges countywide, or the $3.4 million Cedar Street Bridge reconstruction project. Or maybe he’s instructed our lobbyists to push for the $1 million requested to resurface Nash Road.
Greg Lewis has our county’s lobbyists working on two priorities: countywide wi-fi hotspots and construction of a new, $42 million DPW garage in Cambria.
Just three weeks ago, the Legislature unanimously passed a measure instructing Lewis to abandon that effort and concentrate on acquiring an abandoned New York State DOT facility in Lockport for $1. That measure, and two others which also passed unanimously, effectively put the final nail in the coffin of Lewis’s desperately-desired county office campus. So why the hell are our county’s lobbyists wasting their time trying to help Lewis resurrect an idea the Legislature just unanimously shot down?
Come to think of it, a “county wi-fi initiative” has long been a Lewis scheme as well.
Greg Lewis has perverted the intent of the Legislature once again, this time misusing a lobbying firm that was supposed to get us our fair share of the “stimulus” dollars we paid for. Instead, they’re helping Greg finance his ego. And you’re paying for it.