Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 16, 2013

OUR VIEW: Falls, Lockport leaders off base

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NTCC supporters should pack Leg chambers next week and give the lawmakers what-for over foot dragging in renewing the county’s funding contract with its designed TPA.

Republican legislative leader Rick Updegrove, who this week raised objections to a new, long-term deal with NTCC, says he’s concerned by the chronic, shared complaints of agency co-funders, the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport, that the agency is not transparent or accountable or them.

Strip away the buzzwords and we see naked parochialism at work from one end of Niagara County to the other. In recent years, some Falls leaders and our own Mayor Michael Tucker have worked themselves into righteous snits over the thought that NTCC doesn’t lavish enough publicity on their cities compared to other areas of “Niagara USA.” A faction of the Falls city council sees the campaign promoting four destination regions: falls, river, lake and canal, fairly equally, and questions whether their city is getting “its” million dollars worth from the agency.

Likewise, Tucker speaks as though the $90,000 or so bed tax revenue that the city gives over to NTCC should buy Lockport closer to the amount of publicity that the Falls gets — and certainly more than Lewiston, Wilson or Newfane get, since they’re not paying NTCC anything, right?

Guess again. NTCC funding is almost entirely from bed tax money, that is, a tax that’s paid by overnight visitors to the county. Yep, that’s right: Tourists, not local property taxpayers, are footing the bill for Niagara USA promotion. So what’s up with the politicians’ wailing about “our” money?

NTCC was created 10 years ago, from a merger of the Niagara County tourism department and the Niagara Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau. In theory, a regional or collective approach to marketing local assets makes sense because together, bunch of small players pooling their resources can buy more publicity than any one on its own. In practice this regionalism is hard, because it requires the players to stifle egoism and trust in a rising tide lifting all boats.

Elected representatives in Niagara Falls and Lockport are not just city leaders, they are in a very real sense regional leaders. When they’d rather sink Niagara USA than accept less-than top billing, or all the publicity in it, they’re letting the whole region down.