The pursuit of money for schools, streets and health care united about 200 residents Thursday as they spoke in favor of the city's receiving 100 percent of a local share of slots revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino.
The crowd packed City Hall to listen to local lawmakers detail how they would give out the 25 percent of what the state receives as part of a 14-year state compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Two lawmakers -- both running for re-election in their districts -- have drafted separate pieces of legislation mapping out how they think the local share should be distributed.
Both bills -- by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Niagara Falls, and State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda -- would allocate $750,000 to $1 million each to go to the Niagara Falls School District, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the Niagara Falls International Airport and the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.
One key difference is that Maziarz's plan would set aside 25 percent for the four entities with the state paying them directly, while DelMonte would put all the money into a city account to be distributed.
That difference has made up many residents' minds.
"He (Maziarz) is the one that's trying to give it away," said 74-year-old Angie Guarno. "We need that money."
Every dollar is important because any interest earned could go into a general fund for the city to use as it chooses, said DelMonte.
While the assemblywoman defended her plan as the best one for the city, Maziarz said he did not attend because he heard Mayor Vincenzo Anello call the session a rally for the DelMonte plan while it was supposed to have been a neutral meeting.
Maziarz said letting the state distribute the money would help achieve better bond ratings, while Memorial Medical Center President Joe Ruffalo said he believes that might not be the case.
But Maziarz said there is another reason for his position. "Let's face it," said Maziarz. "There is a huge history of the city taking dollars from the state and not using them for their intended purpose."
The state compact began in 2003, and last year's local share was distributed by the five-member Niagara Falls Improvement and Accommodation Committee. That committee was not renewed.