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Settle Niagara casino squabble Maziarz, DelMonte, Pataki must reach a swift compromise for money

Having locked horns over how to allocate slot machine payments from the Seneca Niagara Casino, governments involved risk starving their development efforts while the pot goes untouched. No area shoot itself in the foot and reloads as fast as this one.

Neither Niagara County nor Niagara Falls has seen any benefit from either the Seneca's 2004 payment or the 2005 payment they will make. Nearly $24 million just sits in an Albany escrow account until political leaders agree how to divide the desperately needed money. State Sen. George D. Maziarz, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno's appointee, and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's designee, spent 20 months devising a plan. But it foolishly cut out Gov. George E. Pataki's USA Development Corp. Pataki countered with a budget proposal that funnels the cash through that state-run Niagara Falls downtown development agency. In yet another level of wrangling, the county and the city each want 75 percent of the pot, with the other 25 percent for the other guy. That's in court. This is leadership?

This is absurd. A mountain of money goes unused by a region in great need. One crucial victim is the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., promised a significant piece of the casino money to mount consistent multiyear marketing campaigns to boost tourism -- Niagara's supposed growth industry. Has anyone noticed the seasonal, presummer ads popping up locally from Virginia, Cleveland and other regions? Little from Niagara Falls will appear in those markets, delaying for a second year efforts to fully promote this region.

It should not be too much to ask of government leaders that they craft a satisfactory and timely compromise that would actually put this money to work. Instead, they are locked in a battle over slowly rotting turf. The use of the money to nourish a recovery is crucial. When did Niagara's lawmakers decide that recovery can wait until they settle their ego-driven squabbles?

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