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Assemblyman pushes for transparency by group evaluating proposals for new Bills stadium

A high-level panel with the responsibility of evaluating proposals to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills should convene immediately to consider a host of new developments and keep the community informed, according to Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns.

The South Buffalo Democrat said Tuesday that he has called upon County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and other leaders of the New Stadium Working Group to update the public on any progress toward a stadium, especially as news reports point more and more toward the National Football League’s desire to eventually replace just-renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.

Although Poloncarz continues to resist Kearns’ call for the group to end its practice of meeting behind closed doors, the assemblyman said he has obtained the signatures of 18 elected officials – including seven county and three state legislators - in support.

“We haven’t been able to get any information or update from the New Stadium Working Group,” Kearns said, “and the voters have a right to see its recommendations and communications and know about the possibility of a new stadium. This is important not only to me, but to other elected officials, as well.”

The New Stadium Working Group was created last year through provisions of the Bills’ new lease for Ralph Wilson Stadium, with Poloncarz, Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy and Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon as co-chairmen. The 20-member advisory panel comprises representatives appointed by the state, county and Bills to study where – or whether – to build a new stadium. It has met only once since its creation in April.

Since then, Kearns introduced legislation in the Assembly to provide for open meetings of the group, though it was never passed into law. His idea for open meetings is supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the group.

But Poloncarz on Tuesday reiterated his opposition to the assemblyman’s efforts to open the meetings.

“The county executive has said he does not negotiate in public,” said Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson, though Kearns has indicated his willingness for the panel to abide by Open Meetings Law provisions calling for executive session during discussion of certain topics.

Anderson also said that Poloncarz is not inclined to convene a meeting in the near future because “much is on hold until a new owner is identified.”

Poloncarz said after the group’s first and only meeting in April that he would not be surprised if it would continue for two years or more before arriving at any conclusions.

In his letter to the co-chairmen, Kearns said he remains concerned about the lack of information and the delays in a report commissioned by the state regarding possible sites for a new stadium.

“The people are being kept in the dark despite taxpayer money being used to fund this study and a deadline not being met,” Kearns said in his letter.

Joining the Kearns letter are State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane; Assemblymen John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston; David J. DiPietro, R-East Aurora; and County Legislature Chairman John J. Mills, Orchard Park, and Legislators Patrick B. Burke, D-Buffalo; Lynne M. Dixon, I-Hamburg; Kevin R. Hardwick, R-City of Tonawanda; Joseph C. Lorigo, C-West Seneca; Ted B. Morton, D-Lancaster; and Edward A. Rath III, R-Williamsville.


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