How do we begin? In what can only be described as a horrible opportunity lost, Verizon decided to pull the plug on its proposed data center in Somerset. The data center, which would have brought a multi-billion dollar investment to our area, will likely now be built in Laramie, Wyoming. Gone with the data center are hundreds of well-paying permanent jobs and thousands of temporary, albeit long-term, construction jobs.
Verizon opted out of Niagara County because of one person: Mary Ann Rizzo of Amherst. Rizzo filed a lawsuit, through her attorney Arthur Giacalone, to block the proposed data center. After Niagara County Court Judge Matt Murphy ruled against Rizzo in January, she filed an appeal with the Appellate Court. Herein lies another huge part of the problem.
The 4th Department of the Appellate Division ruled against Verizon's request for an expedited appeal, ruling that the request was premature. The decision by the courts meant that the appeal wouldn't have been heard until fall, since the court takes the entire summer off. Frankly, I don't know what the hell those five judges were thinking, but their decision was the height of irresponsibility, arrogance and ineptitude. Mary Ann Rizzo and her vile actions are the primary reason for Verizon's decision to bail on Niagara County, but the members of the 4th Department share a good part of the blame for this fiasco.
The 4th Department's decision to placate Rizzo and Giacalone, and then go sun themselves all summer, is unconscionable. They allowed Rizzo and Giacalone to take advantage of loopholes in the legal system to push a lawsuit that had already lost once on its non-existent merits. By dragging this legal game of chicken out, though, the 4th Department put billions of dollars in private capital investment at risk. The 4th Department gambled. Niagara County lost.
We all know how bad the economy in upstate New York is. Heck, how many conversations these days begin with the words, "In this economy..."? Coupled with Yahoo!, this project would have put Niagara County on the international radar for companies looking to construct the most efficient, high-tech data centers. One person saw to it that it would not happen.
People should be outraged. Not only people, but unions should be outraged. They just lost permanent and temporary work for thousands of their members. Frankly, I'm amazed that, with all the statements made about Verizon's decision yesterday, not a word was uttered by the plethora of unions that are supposedly working to ensure the job security of their members. I expected them to be screaming at the tops of their collective lungs.
Alas, not a peep.
Mary Ann Rizzo, for her part, should likely refrain from venturing into these parts anytime soon. How many people did she rob of their chances to improve their lots in life? Laid-off workers who would have found work on a Verizon construction site? People looking to advance careers or enter the workforce? Children who hoped to come home to Western New York after college and now have to think about careers in places like...well, in places like Laramie, Wyoming?
While I'd like to personally ask Mary Ann Rizzo if she can "hear me now," the truth is, she had a legal right to file her lawsuit, no matter how specious and lacking in merit it was. But the 4th Department's judges had a responsibility to do what judges do: exercise jurisprudence for the good of the community and to uphold the laws, all of which Niagara County and Somerset followed. The 4th Department didn't do this.
So, while you help your children pack for their new careers in places like Wyoming, take a few moments and imagine what might have been, were it not for one arrogant woman, her huckster media-whore lawyer, and a bunch of pampered, overpaid judges more concerned about keeping their calendars clear for summer vacation.
It's a crying shame.