This is a bit long-in-the-tooth in blog terms, but Erie is still fighitng over what to do with its casino money. Seems that some individual municipalities just want a hunk of cash to spend as they see fit, while other "regional planning" types want to "leverage" the moeny by spending it on bigger stuff. The guy who wrote this column is one of the latter:
It's part of a power and money grab that seeks to squander a huge opportunity for this region in favor of more of the same parochial, shortsighted thinking.
The gambit started in mid-June with a letter to Erie County Executive Mark DiVecchio. In it, the elected leaders of six municipalities -- the city and Millcreek, Summit, Greene, McKean and Waterford townships -- said they should control the annual $5.5 million in "restricted" revenue from Presque Isle Downs & Casino. That claim is rooted in their reading of muddy language in the state slots law providing for restricted cash to be used for grants to municipalities "contiguous" to the one hosting the casino.
The six municipalities want a committee comprising an elected official from each, plus DiVecchio, to decide how the money is spent. That approach would remove half the region's slots take from a broader framework, which seems to have support on Erie County Council, that envisions investing the money in key assets and "transformational" projects that would make a long-term difference for the entire region.
"Transformational" projects? I assume that means a few big projects instead of a lot of little projects. Which might be true. But is it necessarily true? I think immediately of Pittsburgh. The situation is different in a lot of ways. But is it clear that this money would be better spent on projects that leaders here consider "transformational"?
Oof. Shudder to think. We'd probably end up with a spare hockey arena with lots of granite countertops. Is that the kind of thing this columnist has in mind for Erie? I don't know for sure. But this worries me:
Certainly the mayor should be lobbying the key players in county government, using his underdeveloped clout to ensure the city gets a boost from gaming. It's an opportunity especially to make headway on transforming Erie's downtown into the vibrant entertainment, cultural and residential district it can become and this region needs.