Tuesday, October 20, 2009

(Spending) Something for nothing ...

Imagine for a minute that you hired someone to do your grocery shopping. I know, a menial task that you can no doubt handle yourself, but humor me here. You hired someone to go to the store with a list and come back with the things you need to keep your family fed for the week.

Now imagine they didn't do it.

You'd be pretty upset, huh? I know I would.

To make matters worse, you look out your kitchen window to see the grocery store delivery van in your neighbor's driveway, unloading cold cuts, baked goods, canned food, and what looks like several years worth of prime rib and t-bones.

Hmmph.

Oh, did I mention that you were paying $5,000 a month for this service? And that the neighbors got millions of dollars worth of groceries ... for free?

That's essentially the scenario as we found out this week that Niagara County has been left behind in a new upstate revitalization program, despite hiring a lobbying firm in May to secure funds from just such programs.

You may recall a couple stories back in May and June about Niagara County signing a $30,000 deal with a government relations firm called Capitol Public Strategies to secure money from the state and federal government for economic development projects within the county.

Of course, you might not recall it, because there has been no news from Capitol Public Strategies since their hiring. In fact, a search of Google News land precisely zero hits on the firm. None. Nothing. Nada. They've apparently done nothing newsworthy. Maybe ever. Oh, except for take our $5,000 a month for the last six months.

Meanwhile the state of New York, despite its current economic crisis, is handing out millions of dollars. Just not to us. In fact, $4.6 million was doled out to Western New York, including $500,000 for a Massachusetts manufacturer that is looking to relocate to Blasdell; $400,000 to rehabilitate an old warehouse in Buffalo; and $2.4 million for improvements at Buffalo’s Lakeside Commerce Park.

Better luck next time? That's basically the response of a spokesman for the governor, who said, “There are several projects in Niagara County that remain in consideration for round two.”

I hope you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath while we wait.

It seems to me like the Niagara County Legislature has a history of spending money with little to no return. I've yet to see any tangible results from the $50,000 annually spent on the county's membership in the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. And who can forget the $42 million tobacco settlement and how quickly that disappeared. Aside from sprinklers at the golf course, anybody remember where it went?

County Manager Greg Lewis said back in June that he expected something from the $30,000 the county is spending on Capitol Public Strategies. “We emphasized that we wanted action,” he said at the time.

Forget action. For $30,000, how about we expect results.