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Can't We Vote on the Bills' Lease?

In typical New York State closed-door fashion, local and state politicians have voted to approve a 10-year lease deal for the Buffalo Bills. The deal commits the state to providing stadium upgrades pegged at $123 million, plus another $103 million from Erie County with the Bills kicking in $44 million. Taxpayers are providing $226 million in improvements for a 10-year lease extension at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but are given no mechanism to vote on the deal.

As a long-time Bills fan and Western New York native, what really bothers me about this deal is that the people being asked to pay for it have no say. State and local officials secretly negotiate and agree to $226 million in taxpayer subsidies for a private business, but won’t allow taxpayers to vote on it. Is that how democracy and free market capitalism operate in New York State? Our elected officials in Albany and Erie County presume to know how we want the money we pay to government in the form of taxes allocated. This is public money and taxpayers should be allowed to vote yes or no on this deal.

Every politician and local media outlet has a huge stake in keeping the Bills in Western New York, so by nature they can’t be impartial here. Politicians fear the wrath of Bills fans and local radio, TV and print media all generate millions of dollars covering the Bills. Ralph Wilson is 94 years old, the Bills are profitable, and it takes a minimum of three or four years to move an NFL team, so why the rush to push this through? Why are we not selling naming rights to the stadium to help fund these costs, and is this really the best use of $226 million when all parties concede a new stadium is needed for the long-term viability of the Bills in Western New York?

This is taxpayer money and they should get to vote on this deal. I am tired of arrogant politicians telling me what I want and what is best for this region. Put it on the ballot and let the taxpayers make that decision.

- Aaron Walker, AmhersT

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