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Empire State Development Explains Itself

Empire State Development Vice President of Public Affairs, Austin Shafran, explains why the first meeting of the Western New York Regional Council—which is taking place at UB as I write this—is not open to the public…

“As part of our community-driven, competitive approach to economic development, regional councils are serving as advisory boards to design local development strategy and help prioritize projects. But they are not subject to public meeting law requirements.”

Why not?

“The answer speaks for itself. They are advisory boards who are tasked with designing local development strategy and their purpose is to help prioritize projects so ultimately the state can better guide the allocation of resources. They’re not the ultimate arbiters in the allocation of resources. And they’re not subject to public meeting law requirements. But one point that I do want to make sure that I’m clear on is that future meetings are going to have a strong public involvement.”

You’re keeping the public out. How can you claim to have a strong public involvement?

“In future meetings, there’s going to be a strong public involvement. We’re going to do an avail today, following the first meeting. The first meetings, so you know, are organizational. An orientation for the members so they can begin to discuss the future agenda.”

Why not open them to the public? What can be gained by the secrecy?

“They’re organizational. So they can move forward with setting a structure where they can help design the local development strategy that’s going to benefit each of the regions and allow them to tap local assets and resources and harness the best potential for projects that will stimulate job growth.”

So why can’t the public come to the meeting?

“As I said, they’re not subject to the public meeting requirements, but in the future meetings there’s going to be a strong public involvement. And what we’re really doing here is changing from a top-down development strategy into a community-driven competitive approach.”

Yeah, right.

Click here to see who’s on this Western New York Regional Council.

UB president Satish K. Tripathi

Howard A. Zemsky, managing partner at Larkin Development Co.

Aaron D. Bartley, executive director, People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo.

Jeff Belt, CEO, SolEpoxy.

Robert T. Brady, chairman & CEO, Moog.

Deanna Alterio Brennen, president & CEO, Niagara USA Chamber.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Paul Brown, president, Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins.

Allegany County Legislator Curtis W. Crandall.

Colleen C. DiPirro, president & CEO, Amherst Chamber of Commerce.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster.

Dr. Charles M. Edmondson, president, Alfred University.

Chautauqua County Executive Gregory J. Edwards.

Robert D. Gioia, president, Oishei Foundation.

Dr. Rosa Gonzalez, owner/assistant professor & chairwoman, Emergency Management Program, R. Gonzalez Consulting/Erie Community College.

Pamela R. Henderson, managing partner, Henderson-Woods.

John R. Koelmel, president & CEO, First Niagara Financial Group.

Thomas A. Kucharski, president & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.

Brenda W. McDuffie, president & CEO, Buffalo Urban League.

Cattaraugus County Legislature Chairman Michael T. O’Brien.

Jennifer J. Parker, CEO, Jackson Parker Communications.

David B. Porter, plant manager, Cummins.

Duncan J. Ross, president, Arrowhead Spring Vineyards.

Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross.

Andrew J. Rudnick, president & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Jamestown Mayor Samuel Teresi.

Constance R. Vari, executive vice president & chief operating officer, Kaleida Health.

Dr. Raul Vazquez, founder & CEO, Urban Family Practice.


Question: How did Aaron Bartley get mixed up with a crowd like this?


  • RaChaCha

    Jeff Belt also was a member of the New Millennium Group, and lives in Buffalo. I believe he was interviewed for Artvoice by Bruce Jackson, about the Peace Bridge, lo those many years ago.

  • RaChaCha

    What does Robert Freeman of the Committee on Open Government have to say about this?

  • Peter A Reese

    What about Coumo’s commitment to openness in government? Is that over now that he’s elected?

  • Jonas Sunk

    Funny, I never saw any of those folks helping with the Cuomo campaign a year ago. For some of them, if not most of them, they were probably having wet dreams about Mad-as-hell-Carl.