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Undermining the Greenway; Funding stream misused in rescuing Lewiston jazz festival from shortfall

No one can doubt the value of events such as the annual Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival. Indeed, the Niagara County village is home to a series of warm-weather festivals that draw in thousands of visitors and support the local economy. They are worth the investment.

But they are not worth lock-picking the vault of the Niagara River Greenway. Funded by the Niagara Power Authority, the Greenway was meant to do what its name suggested: help to fund the development of green space along the Niagara River, from Buffalo to Youngstown. It is an important project for communities along this side of the river, especially in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where waterfront opportunities have been lost over the decades. Its funding integrity needs to be guarded.

The guards fell down on the job recently when they awarded $15,000 in Greenway funding to the jazz festival. The festival was evidently desperate for funding. It begins soon and needed the money to book the two headliners.

The Greenway Commission provided the money, despite rules that state that funding cannot be used for operations or maintenance of any project that existed before 2007. The festival is marking its 10th year. In addition, the rules require a 30-day delay if consensus isn't achieved in the first vote. The motion to provide the funding drew a 6-2 vote, short of consensus.

Supporters of the funding decision offer this sleight of hand in defense: Consensus is needed only to determine if a project is consistent with the Greenway plan, not to award the funding itself. Furthermore, defenders say -- presumably with a wink -- that the festival doesn't violate the pre-2007 rule because sponsors are signed one year at a time.

Right. And it depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

Look, this isn't the worst thing that could happen and, as we observed, the jazz festival is well worth funding. But the Greenway is also worth protecting. Next time, festival planners should find other sources if they're strapped for money and the Greenway people should be more insistent on enforcing their standards.

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