Let community have a say on Outer Harbor projects
It should come as no surprise that businessmen, appointed by politicians, came up with plans for private development of our Outer Harbor. What is surprising is the lack of even a token citizen committee that would have some input in these plans. Such a committee simply does not exist; all decisions are in the hands of the politically appointed Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. (ECHDC), the politically appointed Buffalo Planning Board and the Buffalo Common Council. And while the Council is an elected entity, it is elected only by city residents and, therefore, does not represent the wider Western New York community.
Last year, informal citizen input concerning the ECHDC project resulted in some limited modifications to the original plans, but to this day these current plans have never been exposed to citizen scrutiny and approval. The obvious question is: Why are our local politicians so assiduously avoiding any democratic involvement in our lakefront’s future?
If private businessmen are allowed to develop the Outer Harbor as they please, we will have to live with their decisions for the next 100 years or so; just as the earlier decisions made by politicians and developers in 1899 allowed private interest groups to take sole control of our lakefront. There is a lesson in this local history. Insisting on a democratic decision-making process this time around would avoid the predictable disasters that will result from allowing profit-seeking self-interest groups to have control over our precious publicly owned lands. By leaving ordinary citizens out of the decision process, our state and local politicians are rejecting the very essence of our country’s greatest strength – democratic involvement and empowerment.
There is an urgent need for our local politicians to consider employing some plain old-fashioned democracy in making these critical and long-lasting decisions.