The year 2012 brought some highs, but far too many lows. Here is a recap of some of the top stories we saw in our Newsmaker of the Month feature:
JANUARY - A $13 million low-income housing plan is in the works, thanks to some behind-the-scenes deals by town board members. "Right now everything is just speculation. ... they showed us a piece of property, this is what they want to do," town Supervisor Richard Purol said on Jan. 10. "We haven't received an application. We have no application, we have no site plan, we have nothing else to go by." As of this month, uncertainty surrounds the plan.
FEBRUARY - A list of seven contingencies must be met for a sale of the Chautauqua County Home. CSEA union leaders, however, ignore a letter from the county executive regarding solutions for the future of the Home.
MARCH - A bombshell. NRG Energy Inc. announces it will possibly be mothballing its Dunkirk operation. Community members are asked to show support for the facility, the largest taxpaying entity in the county.
APRIL - Who says state mandates - such as Medicaid - are the real driver of county budget costs? It seems as though the lack of participation - only 13 percent - of county residents collecting benefits are taking part in the welfare-to-work initiative. If the county has low participation, of course mandate costs increase.
MAY - While the mild winter and lack of snow was viewed as a positive by many, it wreaked havoc on area crops, especially grapes and apples. "At this time the gross loss to the crop is estimated to be $9 million," said Kevin Martin, business management educator at the lab. "That means a $45 to $60 million direct economic loss."
JUNE - Talk about being off track. City leaders were in the midst of a train station proposal - again - for Amtrak. The misguided effort even led to Congressional candidate Nate Shinagawa endorsing the effort. "The train station (proposal) is a distraction," we wrote. "It distracts from the numerous other issues facing the city in the coming year. It distracts from the issue of high welfare rolls and less private development. It also distracts us from what is really strangling Western New York, which is high taxes and an overabundance of government." And, of no surprise, the stop still has not happened.
JULY - More bad news for the city - a major developer will not be working on the former Bertges property on Lake Shore Drive after all. The Buffalo-area developer told Steve Neratko, city development director, that "with the economics as they are, with the site and just in general in the region right now, they couldn't come up with much that they saw as feasible as a project at this time." Five months later, the economy here shows no signs of improving.
AUGUST - An area native strikes gold! Fredonia's Jennifer Suhr is the Olympic pole-vaulting champion. "So even if Michael Phelps set the record for medals this year in London and the U.S. hockey team pulled off a miracle in Lake Placid in 1980, no Olympic event can or will ever replace the magic we all witnessed on Aug. 6, 2012," we wrote. "Jennifer Suhr wins gold. It does not get any better than that."
SEPTEMBER - It's not Albany's fault our population is decreasing, it is continued poor local decisions. Why else would the state's population grow during a time ours stagnates? "According to the state comptroller's office's recently released report on 'New York's cities: An Economic and Fiscal Analysis,' upstate's population has lost 279,448 residents - or 14.9 percent - since 1980," we wrote. Yikes! And yet, high taxing, fee policies continue.
OCTOBER - New York state will not be bailing out overspending municipalities. "For many years, they just put their hands deeper into the pockets of taxpayers and the taxpayers have left," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The governor also noted that raising taxes is not an option. Many municipal leaders in this region, however, do not feel the same as evidenced by recent budget approvals.
NOVEMBER - Don't live in Chautauqua County? No problem, maybe you want to be a school administrator here. In an unfortunate trend, many school leaders are living in Erie County. These are the people hired by school boards who make some pretty hefty figures when taking into account total compensation. What does that say about our overabundant small school systems? "These administrators do not have the confidence to send their own children to the tiny school districts they lead," we wrote. "Instead, they would rather keep them in suburban Buffalo schools where there are a plethora of educational opportunities in the program and course offerings as well as extracurricular activities."