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Scapegoating and name-calling is not leadership

Sen. George Maziarz holds the third-highest ranking leadership position in our State Senate, vice president pro tempore. The senator from Newfane boasts that his prominent leadership role will ensure our region "a voice in Albany."

Back here in Western New York, however, Maziarz's handling of the Verizon data center proposal demonstrates a startling absence of the qualities of a leader.

Insipid cheerleading is not leadership. From the day Verizon's plans were publicly announced in September 2010, Maziarz shamelessly flattered the telecommunication giant and its project. But he failed to critically assess whether Verizon's request for hundreds of millions of dollars of tax exemptions and incentives was justified. And he never asked whether a more suitable location existed.

Disregarding troubling signals is not leadership. The senator chose to ignore the many signs that Verizon's commitment to Somerset was, at best, suspect. He overlooked the footnote accompanying Verizon's zoning applications: "Verizon is actively considering other sites in the Unites States for this data center and would not commit to the construction and operation of the facility at the site until certain financial incentive packages from state and local government agencies are finalized."

Maziarz also disregarded the frequent changes in Verizon's plans. Within two weeks of the filing of the rezoning application in September, the project doubled in size. Then, on Oct. 27, following the Somerset Town Board's approval of the rezoning (and the day after the New York Power Authority allocated low-cost hydropower for the data center), Verizon's attorney announced "that things are continuing to evolve." Rather than constructing three buildings at once, Verizon would build only one warehouse to start.

Inflating job expectations is not leadership. Maziarz has repeatedly parroted Verizon's claim that the data center project would create 150 to 200 jobs. He never mentioned that the financial assistance application Verizon filed on Sept. 30, 2010, with the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency estimates that only 30 jobs would be created after two years of operations. Now, ignoring Verizon's October announcement that it would construct only one building, Maziarz angrily laments Niagara County's loss of 200 jobs.

Scapegoating and name-calling is not leadership. Maziarz blames everyone but Verizon itself for the company's decision to cancel its Somerset plans: "One disgruntled property owner," "one attorney with a reputation of opposing everything," a "broken bureaucracy," a "snail-like judiciary," etc.

Most troubling, Maziarz is publicly vilifying Mary Ann Rizzo, the 75-year-old widow who had the courage to assert her legal right to challenge the data center project. The voice being heard over local airwaves is not a leader.

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Arthur J. Giacalone was the attorney representing Mary Ann Rizzo in the legal challenge to the Verizon data center.

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