A consultant being paid $100,000 to find a light at the end of the tunnel of Erie’s fiscal crisis has discovered almost no reason for hope. “On one hand they have a lot of issues that require attention with urgency,” the consultant and urban architect Charles Buki told Watchdog.com. “On the other, they have neither the money nor the will to agree on and choose which ones they want to tackle first.” Buki highlighted core issue in more blunt terms. “The city is broke,” he told the outlet. Buki is a veteran of turning around difficult situations. He was brought in by Stockton, California, after it declared bankruptcy. He helped the Fannie Mae Foundation and the state of Ohio with their turmoil. But there are few options for him to include in a 10-year turnaround plan for Erie, a city he lumped in with Detroit, Buffalo, and Cleveland as “post industrial basket cases.”
With a lack of current funds, a dwindling population, and a falling tax base, not even a gun for hire like Buki can turn lead into gold. Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper knows this is a county-wide issue, and is proposing a tax hike that she will use to hire a grant writer and create “an idea lab” where local entrepreneurs can meet. “We need to invest in our community to help us to grow,” she said in a press conference. “We haven’t had a tax increase for five years in the county.” While reinvesting taxpayer money into fanciful ideas may make sense to Dahlkemper, it doesn’t add up. Buki can’t find clear solutions for the city, and it needs more than an “idea lab” to get beyond its post-industrial economic catastrophe Nobody can figure out an answer to Erie’s problems, but taxing families who are already struggling to get by certainly isn’t a lasting solution.
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