We’ve always found Christina Orsi to be little more than a more than a cheerleader carrying out the orders of political bosses than a real economic development official. Several friends say that Orsi, the Western Regional Director for the Empire State Development Corp., doesn't do much. Actually, her vapid smile is about her only asset.
That’s why when news reached us from a more-than-casual friend inside ESD that Orsi had been on a tear all day Wednesday, we chuckled. It seems that the Niagara County Legislature’s decision to take ESD to task for its decision to give 1.3 million taxpayer dollars to First Niagara Bank to relocate its headquarters—and its highest-paying jobs—to Buffalo ruffled her feathers.
Apparently the final straw for Orsi was a phone call from “reporter” Mark Scheer, whose piece in Wednesday's Niagara Gazette reads like little more than a re-hashing of an ESD press release.
Our friend inside ESD said that Orsi punted Scheer to ESD’s PR flack and then spent the next 10-20 minutes “swearing up a blue storm.”
But instead of taking all this as a learning point, Orsi decided it would be a good idea to completely burn her bridges. So, she called Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble, who sponsored a resolution at Tuesday night’s Leg meeting that called on the State Legislature to bar ESD from using taxpayer dollars to finance moving jobs from one county to another inside New York State.
We’d have loved to have been able to listen in on her telephone conversation with Orsi. Because it seems, our friend at ESD tells us, Orsi decided against trying to smooth over relations with Niagara County in her phone call, and instead immediately launched into telling Kimble that she “had no clue what she was talking about” and, our personal favorite, “Niagara County didn’t need to handle this this way.”
No, of course they didn’t. They could have just let ESD crap all over us.
But Orsi wasn’t done damaging her relationship with Niagara County. She then called Economic Development Czar Sam Ferraro at the Niagara County IDA’s offices in Sanborn and “tried to ream Sam out.” Actually, they used a description involving new orifices, but we'll avoid the blatant unpleasantness - for now.
Apparently, Orsi then spent several minutes attacking the Niagara County Legislature’s Republican majority for Kimble’s resolution. (Apparently that Kimble is a Democrat and that it passed unanimously escaped her.)
The real kicker came, though, when she told Ferraro that “Niagara County could have at least called us before they did this.” Apparently Ferraro was barely able to contain his laughter as he reminded Orsi that ESD never bothered to call Niagara County before it announced it had moved First Niagara’s headquarters to downtown Buffalo. Ferraro may have also been reacting to the fact that, the day after the First Niagara move, he called Orsi, only to be put off for six hours before she returned his phone call late in the day on a Friday because she “decided to sleep in,” as her secretary put it.
Let’s be very clear here: Orsi handled this situation in a disastrous manner, and this move was political. Empire State Development is apparently in the business of raping Niagara County and asking for a kiss afterwards. And we’re willing to back up that claim. Below is ESD’s news release announcing that they’d just financed First Niagara’s move to Buffalo. Notice all the Erie County pols who are quoted in the release—and that no one from Niagara County was quoted. And then decide whether you believe ESD’s statement, today, that “It was important to ESD to ensure that both Erie and Niagara Counties benefited from First Niagara’s expansion.” (Click to enlarge the below images)