1. THE PLAN. I cannot post the plan online, because it’s the state’s plan, and they have asked that I save it for the hearing on July 20th.
But even when you see it then, it will not be some grand rendering. You will see GPS images with blue print details and hear the reasoning about why this plan was selected.
The images will show you the new points of access, the improvement of certain spots on the Parkway, the continued existence of the duck blinds, and other general details, like landscaping options. But this plan is not some grand dig up. The plan is more about beautification and not invasive construction.
Also, this new plan—closing the Parkway—is based on the current budget (we do not have the funds to build a third ribbon of asphalt) and reflects the previous comments gathered by the public (e.g., concerns about visual impact and general aesthetics). The plan will not affect the shoreline at all. Per the requests of Grand Island residents, there will be no guardrails or other unsightly obstructions. Please keep in mine, It’s not "Nate's plan," it’s the state’s plan based on feedback from the public.
2. THE STORY. Almost the first thing I did when I came in office was follow up on some the grants that were promised to our town, some of which we were (and are) at risk of losing. As part of this, I met with the State Parks. They told me the bike path plan had sat in limbo after being mulled over and considered ad nauseam for many years. The last push, under the previous Supervisor, led to the collection of some important data and feedback, which I felt was important to review and incorporate, which we did. I promised that I would help champion the new plan to avoid the risk that the money set aside might be allocated to a different project somewhere else or that the plan would again fade away.
3. THE OPPOSITION. The opposition to this plan is not widespread. It’s only about two inches wide, but it is many fathoms deep. In other words, the people who don’t want this, really don’t want this. And if my short time as Supervisor has taught me anything, it’s that (far too often) it’s not the best ideas that are advanced, but the ideas that are spoken with the most fury.
This is not to say I don’t understand many of the issues raised by those concerned. I do. They may dislike me for not agreeing with them, but there is nothing I can do about that. I’m advocating for a change that may lead to shared access to something that they currently do not want to lose almost exclusive privileges over—West River. But I can’t favor the narrow special interest of the opposition (no matter the unintended emotional pain my advocacy for a change may inflict) when we have such a grand opportunity before us. It's an opportunity that other communities would die for and that builds on our most important asset, the waterfront!
4. THE SUPPORT. The support of the plan is the opposite of the opposition. It’s widespread, a tad passive, and filled with optimism. Many, many people have contacted me and said, “Way to go Nate!”I am trying to get them to go beyond that, and step forward to put their name on this and HELP ME LEAD. Without you, Supporters, this bike path may again fall back into some drawer in a state official’s desk to collect dust. And trust me, a vocal minority would love that. Thus, I need your support! Please remember, that’s public space, meaning all of our space, and I’m going to say it even if it ruffles some feathers on West River. Even though, I strongly believe this plan will actually benefit those on West River. It will mark a vast improvement over current conditions.
Thus, please come, learn more, and help shape your community by making your your voice heard on July 20th!
5. THE POLITICS. Some have claimed that I’m biased. Well, of course I am. I ran to help improve Grand Island, not to be a figurehead and pad my ego. What's the point of running for office if you don't have any ideas. Yes, I will try and moderate disputes, when there can be a compromise. But I will not fold because some claim I'm ignoring their input. Nor will I derail good ideas under the guise of "consensus."
The good news is with me, you always nowhere I stand. I don’t beat around the bush or play politics. Like it or not, I’m as clear as showroom car’s windshield. I have become aware, however, that certain political forces are rallying support under the radar to once again thwart a bike path plan, in part, to discredit my other overall efforts to improve GI. That's politics for you. People would rather attack the person than present new ideas of their own.
But as Supervisor of Grand Island, I would have been derelict in my duties if I came into office with the understanding that there was a multi-million dollar investment available that we were about to walk away from—again!—and decided to do nothing.
There are many reasons I support this path, but the most important reason is because it’s a piece of the puzzle to help improve the quality of life on GI, which will lead to a better business environment and more opportunities for all. When I ran for Supervisor and I complained about the boulevard some said, “Who is he to say! He's not even from here. Go away! ” Well, now I'm Supervisor. And I'm not going to quit. We cannot be so fearful of change (even positive, incremental change, like a bike path), and then complain about the status quo.
6. THE HISTORY. Some have claimed that the Parkway is part of “Olmsted’s vision.” That is just not true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The Parkway was part of Robert Moses' vision, who imagined a world dominated by tolls and automobiles. Moses today is considered by many to have been one of the most corrupt and damaging political figures in our nation’s history. His expensive, harebrained schemes destroyed more green space than you can imagine The Olmsted Parks group, however, is actually part of the Greenway Commission, which as I understand it supports this plan. I’m actually very close with a key figure with Olmsted, and he expressed to me recently his well wishes for the project. I’m hoping to convince him to appear at the hearing, but he’s not sure he wants to needlessly take the heat.
7. THE FEAR MONGERING. Are we really that afraid of outsiders? You know who is going to use this path? Families. I’m not aware of that many bicycle riding gangs of criminals. And isn’t the joyriding, the traffic accidents, and the other issues associated with the the overgrown, potholed parkway much worse?
8. THE TRAFFIC. It is true that the Parkway is used, especially at certain times of peak traffic. But it’s still a very underused road. If not "dead" then redundant. And this is not a subjective take, although anyone who drives out there can see it first hand. Sensors have been placed on the Parkway and it has been monitored. Even at the height of summer, parts of the road see as little as 300 cars a day, and the traffic volumes are actually trending downwards, which is amazing really. Further, by closing one of two parallel roads, I believe we can better control speeding and dangerous drivers over there in general.
9. MY CAREER. I don’t know how to say this any more clearer, but unlike maybe some others, I don’t have some grand political aspirations. I have aspirations, mind you, but I’m not sure I will ever run again. I might, but let me see what I can get done first. If I really wanted to be some big shot politician, I would smile, go with the flow, and never take a stand on anything. That's the playbook. I've been informed.
My real goals are to contribute my experience, know-how, and moxie to bettering Grand Island. And my vision is not to change Grand Island into some terrible tourist trap, it’s about more business, less apartments, a master plan that prevents growth, an open Dunlop building, more river front access for all, more access to information, and a safer community that is the premier place for families in Western New York.
“A leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus” said Martin Luther King Jr.
10. MY METHODS. As for my manner of communicating with the public, I’m proud of it. This is the era of the Daily Show, John Oliver, etc. Have you seen the videos made by President Bush and President Obama? Between 2 Ferns anyone? And I assume you've actually watched the Apprentice (sadly, I have) or heard Trump’s many, many outrageous and racy appearances on the Howard Stern Show? Bedtime for Bonzo ring a bell? Humor and creative persuasion is a hallmark of American politics from the earliest days of the Republic. I will continue to use social media and other creative means to share my message.
Yes, I’m shaking up the status quo on GI, on this and other issues. I get that makes some uncomfortable, especially the ones that would like to build a wall around GI and cover it with a quilt. I have unpacked and made visible so much that was in the shadows before. But with so many closed buildings, so much stagnation, we need to energy and change. in the words of Ronald Reagan, “The status quo, is Latin for the Mess we’re in.”
Hang tight GI! And be of good cheer! We are heading the right direction!
See you July 20th!