the issues that matter
If you live in Niagara Falls long enough, you learn that politicians who sell you silver bullet solutions are either lying, mistaken, or a little bit of both.
I believe that the way to a better future for our City requires professional public management, a focus on improving Niagara Falls at the neighborhood level first, and a conscious effort to abandon those embarrassing elements of our history that continue to hold us back.
Strategic Code Enforcement
As Director of Community Development and Code Enforcement, I have focused intently on improving our city at the neighborhood level. There is no doubt that our city is plagued by large numbers of vacant buildings and absentee landlords. By integrating neighborhood data on crime, code violations, property values, and demographic data, we can address neighborhood deterioration before it gets out of control. We’ve already begun to move toward better data management and commitment of city resources. We’ve already identified roadblocks in the judicial system that provide problem property owners with the ability to shirk their responsibilities to our community. I believe that as Mayor I will be able to build on this momentum, focusing city resources on improving at-risk neighborhoods while pushing publicly for a housing court that works for all of our citizens, not just for absentee property owners.
Strategic Code Enforcement
Proactive, data-driven approach to improving our neighborhoods
Uses city funds more efficiently
Stops neighborhood blight before it can spread
In many situations throughout our city’s history, citizens have suffered due to government decisions that were made with no input from the public. Participatory budgeting is an approach to financial decision-making that puts power where it belongs: with you. You are the expert on your street, and you should be leading the process of deciding how to improve your neighborhood’s quality of life.
As Community Development Director, I’ve worked with my team to create one of the first federally-funded participatory budgeting processes in the country. Through participatory budgeting, the people of Niagara Falls have selected projects that will yield benefits to our community for years to come, including:
A playground for children of all physical and mental abilities at Hyde Park
A new playground to replace the dilapidated jungle gym at Big Lou (formerly Liberty) Park
A home exterior rehab program in the South End
A community center in the North End
A blight clearance program in the Independence Avenue neighborhood
Participatory budgeting allows our city to show potential funding sources that our community has ownership over these projects. This leads to more funding, which allows us to do more for our communities. As mayor, I will push to expand the use of participatory budgeting to select other neighborhood quality of life improvements.
Puts budget decisions in your hands
Gets government out of the way of neighborhood improvements
Brings communities together to identify and solve problems
Land Value Tax
LAND VALUE TAX
Encourages home improvements and better upkeep of properties
Helps to alleviate the two-tiered tax system that punishes local businesses
Leverages our biggest assets to improve our neighborhoods
Our city’s two-tiered tax system punishes small businesses. Meanwhile, land speculators comfortably occupy acres of vacant land that could be used for development. The solution to these problems is to work with New York State to implement a Land Value Tax.
While traditional property taxes increase as the value of the buildings on a piece of land increase, land value taxes are based solely on an appraisal of the land’s value. Land adjacent to scenic views and tourist amenities should be taxed higher than land in a neighborhood dotted with vacant buildings and brownfields, regardless of what buildings occupy that land. Homeowners should not be punished for improving their neighborhoods by investing in their homes. Instead, land that demands a high sale price from the market, or that has the potential to enrich its owners immensely through the collection of rent or other forms of income, will be taxed accordingly. This discourages land speculation, since undeveloped land in prime areas will cost much more to hang on to without developing. It also ends the counterproductive practice of punishing property owners for developing their land.
As a city, our biggest asset is and always has been our land and waterways. The same Niagara River that protected the Niagara Frontier from invasion in the 1800s also cooled machinery in the industrial plants that employed a generation of local families in the 20th Century. Today, it attracts millions of tourists to our city each year. By working with New York State to enact a pilot Land Value Tax program in our downtown tourist areas, we can finally allow our greatest assets to truly benefit City residents first and foremost.
IN REM OVERHAUL / NO MORE P.I.L.O.T.S
The IN-REM tax foreclosure and auction process is how municipalities, including Niagara Falls, disposes of most vacant properties. The process is broken and needs to change. We created the Niagara Falls Home Ownership Auction in 2013 to prove that tax foreclosed properties can be sold, and renovated, with residency requirements and accountability measures. We also started selling residential properties through proposal requests, asking for real renovation plans. As Mayor, we will use these methods BEFORE the IN-REM auction, market properties year-round to create real renovation accountability on our city streets and will request state legislation to reduce the vacant tax foreclosure timeline.
We are dealing with the results of a decades old property tax equation that does not add up. As Mayor, I will oppose any County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) that does not include bringing a tax exempt, or delinquent, property back on the tax rolls. Why? No government decision exists alone. PILOTS skew our entire revenue picture and place an unfair burden on residents. Tax breaks do not help pay for neighborhood services. IDAs are also not accountable to local citizens and should not make these decisions. We need to attract development here through a common sense land value tax, government services that are straightforward to deal with and professional leadership.
IN REM / PILOTS
Put Home Ownership Auction before the IN-REM
Properly market properties all year
No more PILOTS
Set a neighborhood goal. reach it.
“But we have no money?” Government excuses are not good enough. The old way is not the smartest way. As Mayor, I will set an annual goal of $1 million dollars for investment into neighborhood spaces and/or activities directed to families and our kids. This amount will not include local taxpayer dollars. Every year, you will get to see if the goal was met. Politicians do not usually set these types of benchmarks. That’s the point.
In 2018 alone, our community development team raised over $1 million from other levels of government and regional foundations through aggressive grant writing and communications. Thanks to those efforts and relationships, we are able to deliver projects like Summer In Your City, the Hyde Park Inclusionary Play Project, playgrounds at Jayne Park and 91st Street Park, outdoor ice skating and more.
These types of public spaces and events improve our quality of life and raise property values. This is a strategy that can improve our financial outlook, community health and, perhaps most importantly, positively impact the lives of children. That’s why I entered public service. Let’s set neighborhood goals, find the funds and get the work done.
Find a way
Set a $1 million goal for neighborhood improvements/programs focused on families and our kids
Will not use local taxpayer dollars
Setting goals for accountability