Poor identity for progress

It might be time for the city of Dunkirk to outsource its Community Development Block Grant program to Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. or Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corp.

Earlier this month, during a Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, it was made quite clear – by elected and appointed city officials – that the only thing being accomplished by the city Development Department is a lot of complaining while reliving the memories of previous administrators. “When you have a problem that goes back and to be quite honest, is as messed up as that project was, there were five loan documents,” said director Steve Neratko, who was referring to loans and grants made previously to the Clarion Hotel.

Get over it.

If the city is going to continue to maintain a development department, start making those who have been hired look ahead to the future and what direction the city is going over the next five to 10 years.

Those years, we might add, will be very important depending on what corporations and businesses remain here. In the last year, we have seen a major loss of jobs at Carriage House, major changes in the work force at Cott, and the Public Service Commission having the final say on whether NRG can move forward with a $500 million project.

But don’t bother the city Development Department with these details. They are too busy spewing excuses on past grants and blaming the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for making it tough on them.

It reflects poorly on this administration, which has been a part of some excellent regional initiatives including being part of a water district and policing the town.

But development – or planning – of any sort has not happened in the city the last 18 months. This department needs to prove itself to residents here, not explain what happened or went wrong in the past.

If it is not working out with HUD, the city must move on. Maybe COI or CHRIC could help facilitate some progress with loans.

But the department must give city residents something to grasp for the future. Something to prove that it has an identity.

Right now, unfortunately, that identity is a lot of whining and excuses. That’s not acceptable for the citizens of this city, who are subsidizing that department with more than $200,000 in taxpayer funds.

Council members and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce need to demand more – in terms of its public perception and concrete goals – from this department. Anything less is just one more excuse.