I read with interest News articles featuring Joel Giambra and Kevin Gaughan and their views on regionalism, which criticized Amherst as being slow to respond. As Amherst supervisor from 1976 to 1989, it is time to reply.
Regionalism is a nice word, but needs to be defined as to what is realistically attainable. To Gaughan, regionalism is metro-government. Cooperation is attainable, as are some forms of consolidation. Purchasing is already in place. The state is a central purchasing agency for all who wish to use it. Governments can use state bids for purchase of vehicles, heavy equipment and more.
The Erie Niagara Regional Planning Board should be reinstated as it was. The board had no powers to veto anything, but everything had to be reviewed before it could be funded by the state or federal government. Meetings were open to the public.
Amherst has been into regionalism for years. We have never refused to work with any community on projects beneficial to all. Amherst was the leader in creating the Northeast Solid Waste Board, which resulted in significant savings in solid-waste disposal costs for Amherst, Grand Island and the Town of Tonawanda.
Amherst had a great working relationship with Buffalo when Jim Griffin was mayor. Together we repaved Kenmore Avenue, one lane of which was in each community. For years, we have sent Highway Department equipment into the city, when requested to help fight snow. The huge rocks in the outdoor big-cat exhibit at the Buffalo Zoo were donated and delivered by Amherst. Mayor Anthony Masiello sued Amherst because a company moved there from Buffalo, not a great boost for good feelings.
Giambra has asked, "Where is the leadership?" Has he involved the Associate of Erie County Governments or the County Village Officials in his plans? Where is a detailed explanation of how his figure of $48 million came about?
Amherst is successful because it is proactive, not reactive, which brings us to the Amherst Industrial Development Agency. The only reason there is an Amherst IDA is because when the county IDA was expanded, Amherst was denied membership on the board.
In retrospect, that was the best thing that could have happened. Amherst had two very significant land areas zoned for light industrial use and we had to start looking for companies to fill them. The AIDA was approved by the state, started on a volunteer basis, then funded by the town until it became financially independent.
The statements about giving the town away with tax breaks and being forced to build sewers and roads are false. Only a structure gets tax breaks; all land and special district taxes are paid in full. Developers use their own money to build infrastructure. In 2000, AIDA-induced projects paid $9,173,000 in town, county and school taxes.
We all know the city is the heart and core of the region. The most important thing to jump-start Buffalo is the waterfront, so do something about it!
JOHN R. SHARPE