Who Do I Think I Am?

31 Jul


In my post about the Wendt foundation and the need for transparency on the casino lawsuit issue, long time reader and commenter Hank, asked the following question:

Hate to break the bubble, pal–but a private foundation don’t owe you shit. If the courts or the Justice Department wants a look, they have the power of a subpoena. A liberal blogger is neither the former or the latter.

I know who you are, but who the hell do you THINK you are?

Since this is a full service blog and I like to give the people what they want, I’ll tell you who I think I am…

I am a taxpayer and property owner in the State of New York and Erie County.  I work my ass off to put a roof over the heads of my family and I do so under one of the largest personal tax burdens a citizen of this country can endure.  I volunteer my time each year with local organizations in an effort to make this city a better place to live, work, and play.  These organizations conduct their efforts in the face of one of the most unresponsive and intransigent collections of governments in the country.  I spend a sizable chunk of my spare time trying to help new businesses get started in this town and trying to change the general stereotype that Buffalo is a town filled with know-it-all nanny staters, obstructionists, and unionistas who only support progress they personally deem worthy or from which they can derive profit.

I write a blog, co-own a media company, and participate in creating films, documentaries, written content, television programs, and activist events which attempt to mobilize people to work toward common sense solutions to our regional problems.  The first step in that is to provide the information upon which people can base their decisions and choose to act.

So, when an organization decides to use the judiciary to create public policy that affects a region of nearly 1 Million people, forgive me if I have some questions as to how they go about prosecuting that effort with tax exempt funds.

There are rules that govern the use of those funds that are codified in federal and state law.  As a matter of course, the media should invest time in making sure these organizations are following those rules and operating in the open.  If this were a lawsuit brought by an individual or was a case that only affected a small number of people, I would probably have nothing to say.  However, the existence of a casino in Downtown Buffalo represents a $333MM development and would result in construction jobs, casino employment for hundreds if not thousands of locals, and directly benefits the Native American population.

Agreement with the existence of a casino is immaterial.  The bottom line impact of a casino being either a net positive or negative for Buffalo and Western New York is also immaterial.  When a small group of people choose to launch a campaign that is intended to scuttle that development; the motives, funding, and those who ultimately benefit from the effort are a matter of public interest.

This is not a campaign of insinuations trying to prove that Joel Rose is a nefarious enemy of Buffalo.  It is not to demonstrate that the Wendt Foundation is an evil foundation.  It is to demonstrate that as a region, we need to ask questions and demand transparency whenever someone states that they are acting on behalf of, or affecting the region as a whole.  People often tell me that what holds us back as a city and region is our negative attitude, which is patently untrue in this writers opinion.  The problem is that we don’t demand better, that we fail to ask questions as the decisions that determine the course of our collective region are made.  We’re too concerned about propriety and being nice that we don’t ask tough questions.  Whether those questions are asked of local business leaders, politicians, or members of the Old Buffalo power structure.

Asking tough questions and seeking information is what being a citizen is all about.

And that is what I am, a concerned citizen…and a citizen journalist.

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