Transparency Should Be The Expectation In Major Investments Like Buffalo Billion

In what has become a recurring bought of memory loss, the governor and his agency commissioners have again forgotten that they are accountable to the taxpayers.
 
The Buffalo Billion, aimed at revitalizing Buffalo and the surrounding municipalities, has been fraught with missteps, miscommunication and investigations. In May, the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) approved a $485.5 million payment to the Buffalo Billion, on the condition that monthly updates would be provided to the board and information be made public.  

But at Wednesday’s PACB meeting the agencies overseeing the project, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Fort Schuyler Management, Inc., provided nothing to the board. It is unacceptable that the default position of this administration is to withhold or delay information of public interest. This is the antithesis of good governance and a major disservice to the people of New York. 
 
THE THRESHOLD FOR INFORMATION MUST BE AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH
 
Much like the governor’s failed START-UP NY jobs report, which was also delayed by ESDC and ultimately dismal, details about the Buffalo Billion have left us with more questions than answers. When it comes to investing such a substantial amount of taxpayer money, the expectation that updates and reports will be provided in a timely manner should be higher than ever. 
 
In addition, the governor recently announced that taxpayers will pay a former prosecutor, Bart Schwartz, up to $450,000 to “investigate” the Buffalo Billion and other economic development programs. This is a disgraceful waste of taxpayer dollars. The investigation being conducted by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is the only inquiry of relevance. Hiring an outside attorney at the taxpayers’ expense is simply damage control. If the governor needs answers about how his agencies and programs run, they should come from the people who are responsible for their oversight. 
 
SUCCESS IS IN ALL OUR BEST INTERESTS
 
No one has advocated for upstate economic revitalization more than the Assembly Minority Conference. I have been a staunch advocate for economic development and welcome projects like the Buffalo Billion, which we all sincerely hope succeeds. However, these projects must be administered earnestly and carefully. As public officials, we are stewards of the taxpayers’ money. 
 
There is a lot of money at stake, and the success of this project could mean jobs and revenue for decades to come. I implore the governor and those associated with the Buffalo Billion to do everything in their power to administer this program with the highest level of transparency and accountability. So far, we have seen all too much of the governor’s trademark duplicity.  
 
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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