We Are What We Do.
We Are What We Do (Not What We Say)
Guest View by Seth Piccirillo
We are what we do, not what we say. All of us have heard some form of this saying, from relatives and teachers, for our entire lives. Timeless words. Unfortunately, they are rarely applied to politics. Let’s change that in Niagara Falls, this year.
This election is a job interview. A Mayor is being hired to serve you and one thing is certain at the outset: the citizens are more important than the candidates. From day one, our campaign has presented specific plans to reduce taxes for home owners and small businesses, invest in neighborhood quality of life, rethink community policing and negotiate better agreements across the board. I respect that I am now a politician and that any “plans” will be met with some skepticism. So, I ask that you- my potential employer- review what we have been able to accomplish in this community, together.
As Niagara Falls Community Development (NFCD) Director, I am proud to have worked with you on:
Home Owner Renovations
NFCD has overseen over 450 home owner housing renovations and first-time home buyer grants since 2013, in every Niagara Falls neighborhood. These renovations help save buildings, add financial worth to our neighborhoods and keep local contractors working.
The Home Ownership Auction
In 2013, NFCD created the Niagara Falls Home Ownership Auction as an alternative to the standard in rem auction, which had become a hunting ground for absentee landlords to obtain rental properties at dirt cheap prices. So far, we have sold 36 houses, saving these homes from the dangerous tax foreclosure cycle.
Our department’s administrative costs are substantially lower than the date I started. Cutting expenses in the public sector is easier said than done, but we have proved it is possible through discipline, creative approaches to management, and aggressive fundraising, while staying in good standing with all of our grantors.
Participatory Budgeting/Public Input
We have hosted over 300 public meetings/events since 2012. I firmly believe that residents are the experts on their neighborhoods, and that working with you all is a privilege. In 2016, Niagara Falls became a pioneer in participatory budgeting, which empowers citizens to directly vote on how our funding is spent. The results: investments in the planning of a new North End Community Center, the, a new playground at “Big Lou” (formerly Liberty) Park, and a South End exterior housing renovation program that will be expanded to include more areas of the City in the coming months.
Helping to bring functional trades training back into the city is easier said than done. We were tired of describing the problem without a solution. NFCD worked with Orleans-Niagara BOCCES and Niagara County to bring employment training to the corner of 6thand Walnut (former Planetarium building), and with The Isaiah 61 Project and the Niagara Organizing Alliance for HOPE to create real training pipelines for the under-employed.
Jingle Falls/Festival of Slice
In 2017, our volunteer organizing committee came together to create an annual three-week winter event series in our city. The event will continue to grow as we do our best to pay tribute to the memory of the Festival of Lights.
Parks and Playgrounds
NFCD has created or renovated 16 parks/playgrounds, without use of local tax payer dollars, including the NF Skate Park, Art Alley, and Gluck, Hyde, 70thStreet, Liberty 91stStreet, Jayne and Gill Creek Playgrounds during my tenure. This year we will add a dog park, a Garden Avenue Pocket Park, Hyde Park Inclusionary Play Project and more. All of these projects started with an idea from a resident.
Summer in Your City
In 2018, NFCD secured a New York State Health Foundation grant to bring fitness sessions, family movie nights, the color run and STEAM workshops to city parks for our kids. Our young people need constructive and accessible activities and we are getting ready for an exciting 2019 session.
The Zombie Fight Project
Our grant funded Zombie Fight Project has helped forced action at over 120 vacant houses stuck in the foreclosure process. Now, other cities are using our methods to hold banks accountable.
Results matter more than words.In this primary, I am the candidate that can point to neighborhood-based wins. Throughout my career, I have made a point to de-prioritize ribbon-cuttings and familiar political tag lines in favor of work that creates a genuine benefit for the people of our community. Every day I am proud to have worked with our residents on a wide range of important and complicated developments. As your mayor, our administration will take on the issues that matter to our neighborhoods and provide leadership Niagara Falls can be proud of.
Seth Piccirillo is a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls and a candidate for Mayor