West River Project

Dear Islanders;

The West River Park project will go forward.

It would only come off as hurtful if I said to those who may be disappointed that “I’m sorry.” I do hope that anyone who was reasonable in their opposition will eventually see what a great opportunity this is for our Town and work with me to make it as good as it can be. But no, I’m not sorry.

The money has been disbursed. Design is underway. I’m excited. And I share my excitement with many others, including the Buffalo News, Congressman Higgins’s office, State Parks, the Greenway Commission, New York Visitor’s Bureau, NYPA, and the many, many Islanders who strongly believe that this is the right way forward for Grand Island and Western New York.

I could have done better, but I did much better than some

Some may claim that I’ve been insensitive to those who were against the project. You could have always done more. I acknowledge that. But in my defense, I handed out many olive branches over the last year, only to have them used against me. It wasn’t the personal attacks or the lies that bothered me. When I decided to run for office, I implicitly agreed to accept that. What I can’t accept is the racism and bigotry.

Before you claim that I’m playing the race card, I should inform you that to protect myself I decided to start digitally recording some of the crazy things people have said to me.

For example, one woman screeched that she “Doesn’t want Blacks and Asians from the casino coming to West River.” And one man has decided that it is appropriate to leave a rambling, threatening, and racist message on my answering machine regarding the project. I’m far more worried that people as uneducated as these live among us, than I am about their dubious concerns.

Change always creates push back

Over 500 hundred years ago the Italian historian and diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli wrote his great work on political life called “The Prince.” It’s synonymous with Game of Thrones-like treachery. But it also may be the original Political Science text book. In it, Machiavelli warns young “princes” to be leery of introducing too much change. For change leads to danger. Specifically, he writes:

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

But Machiavelli also gives some advice to those intent on changing things as well. He advises that if (despite the danger) a politician wants to initiate change he can only survive if he creates a coalition of like-minded friends. In other words, you can’t do it on your own, or your throat will end up getting slit.

Thankfully I’ve got some great friends.

I met so many wonderful people during the West River debate in particular, and also in all the other little debates during the last year. Thank you to those who send me kind messages when I am attacked. And thank you, especially, to those who endured the same types of attacks. Without you having the courage to stand up, the loudest and most shrill voices of the naysayers would have drowned everyone else out.

You did the right thing.

Those who had my back (you know who you are) should take pride in knowing you did the right thing. Look to history. Many decades ago Robert Caro critically wrote of Robert Moses’s decision to build parkways alongside our rivers. It was already considered a mistake even so long ago, and for the very reasons we emphasize today. As you read the next paragraph, please remember these are not my words, although they sound like it:

“. . . Moses had been formed in a different age.  [To] understand his dream for the west side improvement, one had to understand the age in which he had dreamed it. In that age, parks had been for the upper and comfortable middle classes, and one of the things those classes most wanted to do in parks was drive through them, at the slow leisurely speeds of the era and enjoy their scenery. In that age, therefore, it made sense for a road though a park to be placed at its most scenic location . . . at the river’s edge."


But things had changed, as Caro continues . . . "It didn’t require much brains to see that running the highway along the water would have the effect of making sure that the waterfront itself could never be used for a park . . . It would forever eliminate for recreational purposes several miles of the most beautiful waterfront in the world. Except it’s scattered, difficult to reach locations, people would no longer be able to stroll alongside the broad river, play beside it, fish in it, or picnic beside it. [Because of cars] They would no longer even be able to look at it in peace.”

Let’s stick together. There’s more we can do.

Yes, friends. It was a good and worthy cause, one we must continue to fight for and help shape until it is finished.  We will be out there with our strollers, our rollerblades, and yes, our bikes in 2018.

And beyond that, I will need you to help with more, much more. Tolls, community center, completion of Dunlop, broadband (call the school board), protection of green space and the Master Plan, alternative energy, inclusiveness, and of course a better Town Hall. I won’t be here forever. Which one of you is going to take the baton after I’m gone?

With highest regards,