At risk of arguing with success, Western New York could do with less of the “creative tension” that surges between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo.
That’s how Higgins described the friction that courses between the two Democrats regarding development issues in Buffalo. It works this way: Higgins criticizes, then Cuomo responds. Or doesn’t.
Higgins has always been aggressive when it comes to pushing for Buffalo. He was aggressive during the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project, in the end securing hundreds of millions of dollars that produced Canalside. He had to fight other Democrats, including Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, to get it.
He has been aggressive about the Outer Harbor and the Central Terminal. It’s a kind of relentlessness that has generally benefited Buffalo, even if at times it causes static that may be unuseful.
Indeed, sometimes it feels like a competition for ownership of Buffalo’s revival. That’s unfortunate, because the truth is that both Higgins and Cuomo have played large and indispensable roles in the city’s ongoing transformation from Rust Belt casualty to 21st century harbinger.
Without Higgins’ aggressive insistence, the Buffalo waterfront would still be the wasteland it was for decades. Instead, it draws residents and visitors by the thousands for concerts, exercise, relaxation and more.
Similarly, it was because of Cuomo’s vision that the state is investing well over $1 billion to reimagine the Western New York economy, most prominently by funding construction of a high-tech solar panel manufacturing plant that will put Buffalo at the forefront of a still-emerging economy.
One observer, speaking to The Buffalo News on condition of anonymity, thinks the conflicts that have arisen between the two men – most prominently on the pace of work at Canalside and the Outer Harbor – are about Higgins thirsting to remain in the spotlight. A defender insists it’s simply about not being satisfied with a pace of work the congressman sees as too slow. Both could be true.
So far, fortunately for Western New York, the conflict hasn’t interfered with progress in any discernible way.
Indeed, it’s hard to argue with Higgins’ observation that, “Bureaucracies and public authorities try to wear you down so you go away.”
Cuomo is the master when it comes to having government jump when he wants. Neither of these men shows signs of going away.
Regardless, Buffalo’s revival is continuing with no sign of flagging. To that extent, it seems unnecessary to complain about frictions that, at least to some extent, are bound to arise between two politically powerful men who are driven to make things happen.
It’s good both of these men are on Buffalo’s side. The city is much the better for their interest and attention. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what a greater level of cooperation might achieve or what a more muted level of instigation might avoid. It would be worth trying.