Heaney weighs in on Buffalo Billion II

Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

WGRZ News Anchor Maryalice Demler interviewed Editor Jim Heaney hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a broad outline of a $500 million extension of his Buffalo Billion program.

You can catch Heaney’s comments in the video below or in the slightly revised text that follows. Heaney also provided analysis to WBFO.

What do you find striking in the governor’s proposal?

It’s very short on spending details. There’s no talk of reforms to avoid the corruption we’ve seen so far in the programs.

But more than that, a lot of the spending has little or nothing to do with economic development. I see a lot of transportation projects, for example. Recreation projects, too. Now, they may or may not be worthy projects, but they’re certainly not big job creators.

So what is this, if not an economic development plan?

It’s a grab bag of projects. The Buffalo Billion has, first and foremost, always been about marketing the governor and creating the illusion of progress. This is merely an extension of that effort.

Any promising projects?

Again, we’ve seen no details, but perhaps the advanced manufacturing industrial park at the Bethlehem Steel site.

Any particularly dubious proposals?

The extension of Metro Rail to Amherst. It would be very costly to taxpayers and provide nominal transportation benefits. To be cost effective, rail transit requires density and congestion that Buffalo simply doesn’t have.

The governor continues to tout the success of the Buffalo Billion program. Has it been a success?

It’s way too early to tell. Most of the big-ticket projects haven’t been completed, so the hiring hasn’t started in earnest. And the job growth we’ve seen in the region lags behind the rest of nation.

There has been one lasting legacy, however. Corruption and scandal, and the governor did not address that in his talk today.