AES debacle provides constitutional lesson
Somehow, through more than 200 years of struggle to maintain a government of the people, we still don't have it right. Hopefully, we were taught, and should remember, something about the 13 colonies that finally determined that the edicts of a monarch were too much to bear and began a conflict, which in many ways continues to this day, to find "liberty and justice for all."
This nation's Founding Fathers gave us a road map to freedom in a miraculous Constitution. Avoiding detours requires we be ever mindful that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Given the distractions of modern life, we are failing in that citizenship responsibility. We have allowed too many miscreant individuals to invade the temples of political power.
As we recite, "and to the republic for which it stands," we need to remind our elected county legislators that their oath of office exists to tie them to act only in the best interest of all the people of Niagara. They need to recite that oath at the beginning of each legislative session as a message of why they are there.
Applying all the foregoing to the issue of the AES tax decision disaster, it is incumbent on our county legislators to correct the actions of their errant IDA board. The amount of financial penalty that will befall taxpayers of Niagara in the coming years has been well publicized ($40 million or more over a dozen years). What has seen little print is that the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency has created a multimillion-dollar tax shifting deal that includes a benefit to the agency of a $250,000 fee.
There are provisions in IDA law specifically written to eliminate excessive abuses of authoritarian power. As related to the current controversy there needs to be a review of the statute where guidelines specify, "There must be the demonstrated public support for the proposed project."
What I hear is a loud, persistent public outrage over the proposed project.
The County Legislature is ultimately the responsible body, not only here, but for every bit of IDA tax shifting. We elect legislators to act on our behalf. That is stated in Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the Constitution as, "Republican Form of Government." An IDA board must fall under legislators' responsibility.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "Government can give us nothing which it does not take from somebody else. If we want government to be our servant instead of our master, we must understand it, participate in it, distrust it, and control it."
Donald G. Hobel
Somerset supervisor needed to speak out
Eleven days before the election, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency approved a PILOT for AES Somerset. Prior to that date, candidate for supervisor of the Town of Somerset Richard Meyers sat through two public meetings and said nothing about pending events that would impact the township where he wished to be involved as a local administrator.
Nov. 7, he was elected to the office of supervisor. Nov. 8 through Dec. 31, he said nothing, while citizens across the county took advantage of the public forum wherever it was available to draw attention to the burden that NCIDA had heaped on the citizens of Niagara County, the Town of Somerset and the Barker Central School District.
The new supervisor sat silent for 54 days. If he is qualified to direct the Town of Somerset, why did he not speak in defense of his new responsibility? He at least could have done so as a resident and a taxpayer, if not as the incoming supervisor.
It turns out that the jobs the NCIDA claimed to be retaining with the approval of the PILOT, (a weak and handy misrepresentation, in my view), may actually be lost in the form of teaching positions at Barker Central and any other school district across the county whose taxpayers look for ways to lessen the impact in their respective communities.
Thank you [IDA Chairman] Henry Sloma and your board of happy members -- happy that this may not impact their backyard!
An imagined comment by this author from behind closed doors: "Let's take it out on the children across the county, they will never know the difference." Richard Meyers has children. I suppose they will suffer along with the rest. Perhaps his voice was the one that would have turned the tide during this time of public outcry.
On Jan. 1, Richard Meyers finally spoke to The Buffalo News, mildly against the PILOT and encouraging AES to build a 'wind farm' or construct Plant No. 2 on its own (without state incentives that will be part of a proposed clean-coal fired plant on the NRG Huntley property in the Town of Tonawanda).
Nice to finally know that he is breathing strongly enough to take office.