From The Editors
Erie has a bright future. A taxpayer-subsidized hotel on the Bayfront is not part of that bright future.
In our Sept. 18 issue, we championed the stories of two companies that epitomize the notion that yes, businesses and people can be successful and are willing to invest here: Lavery Brewing Company and Sprague Farm & Brew Works.
Yes, we like beer and we like talking about it — homegrown craft beer, mind you — but what's more is that we like featuring success stories, because these serve as examples of the greatness Erieites are capable of. And according to you, our Reader readers, you like reading these stories. Based on the conversations that continued for two weeks about the Laverys and the Spragues, and the amount of praise doled out in the comment sections on our website and our social media platforms, these stories struck a chord with you and mattered to you.
But these are not only stories about good, successful Erie people; they're stories that signal to us that this city indeed does have that bright future ahead of it if people are willing to stop bickering, bitching, and blaming and get down to the art of actually working towards such a future rather than just sitting around talking about it.
And we like featuring these success stories because they actively serve as reminders that that bright future isn't something we should only think about once or twice every 50 years. These stories are emblems of what's possible if we all embrace and then cultivate the opportunity we have at hand here.
What is not an emblem of that bright future in need of embracing and cultivating is a new taxpayer-funded hotel on Erie's Bayfront.
And if comments and continuing conversation serve as any indicator, this issue also matters to you, Reader readers.
Rebecca Styn wrote about this topic, saying that in some ways, another hotel on the Bayfront makes sense. And it does — if convention goers need additional lodging because the Sheraton's too often booked to capacity.
Rebecca also wrote that in some ways, this project — the newly proposed hotel that comes to us via a $25 million grant from the state that just happened to show up at a time when we're cutting food stamps and continuing to gouge our education system — makes little sense. And it does make little sense — if private developers are interested in the land.
And they are.
Scott Enterprises — you know, the company that's continually cultivating new businesses on Upper Peach Street and recently purchased Peek'n Peak Resort and Spa — has publicly expressed an interest in developing a hotel at the Bayfront. And those plans are going forward. Which means a privately-owned hotel is in our future — one that taxpayers won't need to fund and one for which taxpayers won't need to assume the risk.
Sure, a county-subsidized hotel will create jobs — a projected 300. And in an area where jobs are sparse, that should be great news.
But if we examine the long-term price tag — the one that suggests a $30 million bond to cover the remaining expenses after that grant — this reeks of poor investment for the county, the city, and the people living here, especially when private investors are willing to absorb the risk associated with an investment depending on those ifs.
So will this taxpayer-funded hotel happen? Yes, but only if those of us who recognize this for what it is — a poor investment at a time when every cent matters in a city that can't afford to bankroll something that has a substantial chance of blackening the bright future – and do nothing.
Should this hotel happen? Not when we have bigger things with which we, the public, ought to be concerning ourselves.
In our last issue, Cory Vaillancourt wrote what Ben Speggen openly referred to as his best Upfront to date. And as of this issue, that's 90 of them.
It was critical about Erie's penchant for misdirected hatred, often towards itself. Cory argued that we instead need to aim that hatred at more appropriate, more pressing things — you know, 17 percent of the county and 30 percent of the city living below the poverty line, and 40 percent of city residents needing to rely on food stamps.
And the numbers go on. So do the city's general complaints.
We complain about the weather. Or that there's no culture here. Or that Erie's just plain ugly. The mistake on the lake. Dreary Erie.
"We're at a critical juncture in Erie's history – right this very moment," Cory wrote in light of the uncertain future that lies between the Perry 200 Commemoration and the P250 in 2062. Yet we're at a critical juncture right now with our complacency for bad ideas, our acceptance — no, welcoming — of the mediocre in exchange for quick riches for only a select few.
Seventeen. Thirty. Forty. Those aren't the select few.
For all of us, now is not the time to be sitting around simply talking, simply bitching, and bemoaning bad ideas. Now is the time to voice concerns, direct our hatred toward bad ideas so that they don't become bad investments and bad realities that we're left to live out.
If we don't — if we're willing to settle — those people with success stories will become harder to find, harder to highlight, and harder to look toward for lights of inspiration. And they may go chase and cultivate success somewhere else, somewhere where citizens care enough to take command of their city's bright future and work to ensure the lights are never turned on for bad ideas.