From The Editors

Category:  Opinion
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 at 7:49 PM

Apparently Christmas can come late. At least for Erie, it did this year.

On Monday, Jan. 20, Erie received good news to the tune of $1.8 million. Those hearing that tune? Thirteen nonprofits. Those singing it? The Erie Community Foundation and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.

According to Erie Times-News’ Gerry Weiss, the money is coming from grants and scholarships, and while the specifics and the breakdown of how the grants and scholarships work can be a little confusing (Weiss does a good job of explaining it), the bottom line is that it’s the kind of news that’s good to hear.

As the winter winds continue to blow through The Gem City, forcing many without shelter to seek refuge from the biting weather, the Community Shelter Services will now have more resources as its disposal to help fund its homeless shelters.

We continue to stress that to decrease Erie’s poverty rate, the city needs to increase job opportunities and broaden the access to available education, the Erie County Technical School Foundation — the largest grant recipient — will receive $225,000 for its “Career Street” project, which affords students more diverse career-exploration opportunities.

And as we strive to improve the liveability of our city, the Erie Art Museum will benefit from this money to expand its Let’s Move Outside bike-rack program, which encourages a healthier, greener lifestyle for all of us.

These are just three examples of how that $1.8 will help Erie be a better Erie, a city more attractive to both those already living here as well as those considering making it their new home.

But our revitalization needs to extend beyond the nonprofit sector, because it’s no secret that Erie’s nonprofits are plentiful, successful, and always growing. They also provide no tax base, which is often a point of concern when it comes to the ever-popular where are we going to get the money for that? question.

So while Christmas can come late, the overwhelming question then becomes, can  CRIZ-mas come late, too?

By now, you know that Erie missed out on the first round of CRIZ funds. CRIZ — City Revitalization and Improvement Zones — essentially, as Jay Stevens writes in his Street Corner Soapbox column, "allows a city to designate an area for redevelopment, and tax revenue from businesses in that zone can be funneled directly back to that zone for development.”

While we missed out on our chance to receive those funds initially — congrats, Bethlehem and Lancaster! — we have another shot now, as Erie can enter another bid next year. The CRIZ funds matter, because despite Scott Enterprises' pledge to move forward with the proposed Harbor Place plan, having access to such resources means the plan, the development, the execution, and the follow through can all happen more quickly. Which, bottom line, means Erie has its shot at becoming an even better Erie.

It’s time to face the real music: Erie finds itself at a crossroads. Times have changed and so has our city. For better or for worse, things aren’t the way they used to be, and unless something new, something dynamic, something monumental happens, Erie will be a second-rate city and our struggle will be nothing more than continuing to manage our own decline at best.

We need revitalization. We need improvement. And we need CRIZ.

Rarely do we get second chances. And we’re getting one. Rarely do we get to change so quickly the landscape of our city and our future. And with CRIZ, we’re getting that opportunity. So now is not the time for partisan politics, finger pointing, complacency towards managing mediocrity. Now is the time to put politics aside, shelve personal agendas, and call upon our best, boldest, and brightest to ensure we make the most of our second chance. After all, we should all want a better Erie and CRIZ helps us better afford that; otherwise, what’s the incentive for any of us to live, work, and play here?

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