Sidewalk Grant and the Town Center

Dear Islanders,

Do you know that section in the Dispatch each week where you can read and reflect on what was going on Grand Island 10 and 20 years ago (or longer)? I saw recently that both 10 and 20 years ago local officials were lamenting our lack of Town Center. Well, the time for talk and lamentation is over. We are going to create a Town Center! 

We have received a 1-million-dollar grant. Yes, a million bucks! We will have handicap accessible sidewalks all the way from Webb Road to Fantasy Island along Grand Island Boulevard. The significance of this is huge. I did not want to announce it until it was official, but the Governor just released his announcement.  I am ecstatic and won't bother trying to hide it.

Pedestrian access builds communities. When I became Supervisor, I did my homework. I read everything I could about urban planning and how to build strong communities. A common thread through the great texts is the need for pedestrian access. That’s why we need more trails, paths, and sidewalks. It builds a community identity and core. We can see each other, interact, and be together, not to mention be safe from speeding traffic. I worry each day when I see people wandering perilously down our Boulevard towards bus stops. 

We now can see where we are going; let’s not get lost.

If all goes well, before I leave office, the sidewalks will be in, we will have a Master Plan, the West River project (allowing, for the first time, all of Grand Island unfettered access to the waterfront) will be done, and we will have a shining new Community Center at the middle of our Town. That Community Center must be more than a big gym. It should be a place of learning, health, and wellness. If this all occurs, we will have our Town Center. 

But the whole vision remains in jeopardy because of petty, party politics. We got this far, this fast, despite having some Town Board members who often actively opposed me—even passed motions to publicly shame and discredit with reckless allegations. We forget, but one small group essentially ran this Island for decades. They relied on quiet decision-making and a lack of resistance to put forward what was apparently their core objective: continued employment. I hope we never make the mistake of letting the Town slip backward into the control of that crew again. 

You may feel I’m taking it too far. But let’s not forget some of the madness we have seen at Town Hall.  Recently a councilman I currently serve with actually tried to pass a motion (based, I assume, on ideological grounds) to prevent access to the type of grant funds that we will use to build Scenic Woods and sidewalks. I was dismayed. But not more dismayed than I am at the old Town Board’s decision to actually increase density for apartments and encourage their construction. As you know, I’m pushing for a moratorium on new apartment builds, that’s not what I believe is the answer for our Town’s future. There is no logic in any of this and these antics could easily distract us from where we are going.  We can’t let that happen.

Jump on the bandwagon—lead with us!

We are getting things done. We have preserved hundreds and hundreds of acres (Scenic Woods and beyond), told our history to the broader Western New York Community, led the way on solar and broadband, and won the support for a 20-million-dollar visitor center that will celebrate our local farmers.  It’s been less than a year and a half since I came into office. And instead of saying to ourselves, “How can we achieve all these goals?” We are starting to ask, “What else can we accomplish?”

It is wonderful to see the people latching onto the energy from Town Hall, desperate to get involved. We need more good people with common sense and a passion and commitment to Grand Island – not to their party or to vendettas. Thankfully, the term limits law I pushed will help us keep the momentum going and will prevent you from paying bloated pensions to town officials going forward. Unless we have good leadership, we will never accomplish the ultimate goal of making Grand Island the premier community for families in Western New York. Therefore, we must overcome our past, partisan ties, and the ideological squabbles that curse national politics. 

This November, please do not vote for the party, vote for the person. And please, please, don’t just go on a hunch, don’t just follow some party endorsement, or only listen to your friends. Ask the candidates what they believe, will vote for, and will do. Also, ask them what their track record is like and what kind of experience they have. Above all, choose wisely Grand Island. Because it’s not silly rhetoric or boisterous Town meetings I fear most. It’s another Dispatch piece 20 years from now that again conjures hopelessness as it describes some million-dollar grant Supervisor McMurray fought for and how it was wasted because of petty, party politics.

With highest regards,