Tolls: I’m guessing you saw the news
“A good idea has many parents. A bad idea is an orphan.” It’s an old phrase. But so many of those old phrases hold timeless truths.
Many (most) of the ideas my office first put forward a year ago—including cleaning up the Boulevard, stopping apartments, supporting farms—that were once attacked now have broad support. That's the way it usually goes with good ideas. First everyone says "no" and then it becomes "go."
One of the ideas that's gained support is rethinking the tolls. About a year ago, we had a press conference to oppose the status quo on the bridges. Some people laughed at us and our “Home Free” message. I knew the message was brash, but it was meant to get the conservation going. And it did.
Over the last year I have been all up and down Western New York speaking to leaders and citizens about why having people out there collecting dollar bills makes no sense. And what started off with finger pointing and snickering is now a movement with real momentum and bipartisan support. Congressman Brian Higgins, Mayor Brian Kulpa, Mayor Rick Davis, Senator Chris Jacobs, Senator Tim Kennedy, Senator Rob Ortt, and many others including passionate and determined citizens are all on board. Most importantly, I’ve been speaking to representatives in the Governor’s office who want a solution.
Cashless tolls solve a huge part of the problem
In a nutshell, the tolls cause thee main problems: 1. negative economic impact; 2. traffic jams; and 3. Increased pollution from idling cars. Cashless tolls solve 2 out of 3. It’s not a perfect answer, but it’s a start. And it was one of the requests we made from the very get go. If they are installing cashless tolls and LED lighting in other parts of the state, why ignore Grand Island?
Make no mistake, I still believe as a host community the negative impact of the tolls cannot be ignored. And that’s why I have said over and over again that some of that money should stay here. It’s something that I believe we can achieve—not over night, but we can do it. The case must be made logically and deliberatively, and I am working on that now. It’s glad to see local politicians jumping on the bandwagon and saying that Grand Island as a host community should get part of the funds.
Politicians wait and pounce; leaders get up and bounce
I'm proud that we are providing leadership. Having been in office for over a year now, I fully understand the issues with politics—lack of leadership. No politician wants to take a stand until they know darn well they won’t pay a price for it. No one leads, because they are not rewarded for it. So it’s a giant waiting game to see when an issue gels enough with public support, and then there is a feeding frenzy to take credit. But nothing happens first without someone having the courage to stick their neck out.
Like it or hate it, I’m not afraid to lead. I say what I think and let my actions reflect my beliefs. I may not be much of a politician, but I think I’m a pretty darn good leader, and I know I’m a heck of deal maker. No, I’m not an independently wealthy tycoon. But I am the guy the tycoons hire to get their deals done. I don't just speak business talk, I know how that world works. And in the private sector, I’ve proven myself as the one who sets things up for the big handshakes and fancy pens.
As your Supervisor, I’ve been using all of those skills to make things happen, even in the most trying of circumstances. And mark my words, after 80 years, change is coming at the bridges. We may not get everything we want right way, but the day with the handshakes and pens is coming. We have to be patient. But it’s coming.
I’ve received a ton of positive feedback on the changes at the old gas station across from NOCO. It’s just a start. But it's a great piece.
Some have said we should push for more retail space there. Well, I’d hate to break it to you, but we have a lot of empty retail space on the Boulevard as it is. Putting in another strip mall that can fail (like the Ransom gas station), is a short-term fix, but not the right answer.
I worked with the owner to get the old smelly tank removed and the place cleaned up, but the way to make the Boulevard business-friendly is not more strip malls and big box stores. That stuff can stay off-Island. We need to create an inviting, walkable, district that is pretty enough to make people want to stay and roam. That long-term approach will help Grand Island Boulevard fill in with the right style of business. I’m thrilled that my goal of a better Boulevard is now shared by many on both sides of the political aisle. But the beautification of the Boulevard will only be successful if we think about ten years from now, not ten days when we are planning it out.
We had a very productive joint Town Board/School Board meeting. It was real, full of open discussions, considerate debate, and meaningful plans. We discussed Title 9 issues, Broadband, 485-b, a School Resource officer, and even getting Mandarin Lessons at the school. It was great. We hope to have those meetings twice a year going forward. We are still a small town--hopefully we always will be. We will inevitably disagree, but with respect and compromise, we can accomplish great things if we work together. We are all in this for the better of Grand Island, and our meeting showed the best of Grand Island.
With highest regards,