Development For the Rest of Us
by Clifford Cawthon
Governor Cuomo’s next plan in his campaign to make New York the “empire state, once again” is a revitalized series of Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC). These councils will be formed by executive order and serve as a new approach to job creation based on community consultation and regional reciprocity. The councils could be a benign to brilliant form of representation in economic development—if they weren’t overwhelmingly composed of business interests.
For the REDC planned for Western New York, two of 29 are not corporate CEOs or representatives of some kind. This is not a diverse representation that reflects our community and our community’s interests. We need a development that is representative of not-for-profit and workers’ interests; the stakes have not been higher since the great depression of the 1930s. We have $8.2 billion to spend every year on economic development that should be about alleviating poverty and increasing opportunity. We need to raise living standards by using public subsidies to build what people want and need in their neighborhoods, and a more equitable, green, and prosperous economy in our state. We can fight Buffalo’s 30 percent poverty rate and our environmental decline with the same dollar.
These REDCs should be to rein in corporate subsidizes and not perpetuate a pay-for-play rubber-stamp system of economic development. These REDCs can be a progressive development, but they would be an anachronism if they were a public attempt at regional development directed by private interests. Western New York needs better regional coordination to spend the millions in economic development funds we obtain this year. Who better to save us economically than ourselves?
There are hundreds of activists, community advocates, and sustainable small business and everyday citizens like you, the reader, who are not being appointed to this council. We must see as to whether or not this council seriously creates economically and environmentally sustainable and just job-growth here in Western New York, but it is self-evident that if we are serious about this task then, as opposed to only two of the 29 members being “community representatives,” at least 50 percent of the committee should be classified as “community representatives”; otherwise, this is a PR stunt by Cuomo, and, as a native of the third poorest city in the US, I am not impressed—I am offended.
We deserve better than only two representatives and the industrial development agencies that we have been saddled with in the past. This REDC can streamline the grant process, make it a truly progressive community project, and help us compete to make Buffalo great. At the moment, though, the constitution of the committee and lack of input from the public ensures that this will only become another layer of the state bureaucracy.
If you want to get involved in the fight to create fair and livable jobs for a sustainable future in Western New York, then get involved with the Coalition for Economic Justice: www.buffalojwj.org.
Clifford Cawthon, Buffalo
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