Constituent Services
Challenges Facing Older Cities Topic of Discussion at Federal Hearing Hosted by Congressman Higgins
August 15, 2008
Congressman Higgins takes testimony at the Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force Hearing
Congressman Higgins takes testimony at the Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force Hearing

Local & National Experts Convene to Provide Testimony Aimed at Shaping Federal Policy


Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), co-chair of the Congressional Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force, in conjunction with the Northeast-Midwest Institute and the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition hosted “Toward a 21st Century Community: A Revitalizing Older Cities Field Hearing” in Western New York.  The hearing, held at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Museum in Buffalo, is the first field hearing for the federal task force. 


“This hearing provides an opportunity for Western New York to tell our story in a compelling way to force federal attention to the issues important to communities like ours,” said Congressman Higgins.  “The challenges discussed will be recorded by the task force and used to shape new federal policies that satisfy the unique needs of older cities across the nation.”


Members of the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition established the Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force to focus on recommendations for federal action to restore prosperity to America’s great historic manufacturing cities and transportation centers throughout the Northeast and Midwest.  Congressman Higgins is hosting this forum to help build the federal agenda for the Revitalizing Older Cities Task force and the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition. 


Panels focused on three of the most challenging issues facing older communities – housing, economic development and water infrastructure.  Below are details on each of the panelists:


Panel One: Housing


Mary Holtz, is the Supervisor for the Town of Cheektowaga.  Mary is a graduate of Villa Maria Academy and the University at Buffalo.  She has been involved with and worked at the Town of Cheektowaga for 36 years and is a considerable resource on the challenges facing the town, one of Western New York’s largest.  Supervisor Holtz discussed the challenges of inner ring suburbs.


John Murphy, has been the executive director of the Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation since February of 2007.  John is one of the strongest advocates for the housing needs of smaller cities, like Dunkirk and Jamestown in Chautauqua County.  John has a long career in dealing with housing issues in Chautauqua, and we are pleased to hear his perspective.  Mr. Murphy’s testimony covered the challenge of revitalizing neighborhoods from a smaller city perspective.




Older Cities Task Force Hearing

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Mike Clarke, is a program officer in the Buffalo office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, otherwise known as LISC.  Mike is a longstanding and high respected advocate on housing and community development issues for the region and his perspective as a non-profit professional is invaluable.  Mike Clarke discussed the challenges of dealing with vacant housing under existing federal policies.  


Steve Weiss, a partner at Cannon Heyman and Weiss in Buffalo specializes in the rehabilitation of older properties and is an expert in assisting clients in using federal tax credits.  Mr. Weiss spoke about housing and economic development incentives, including the success of federal tax credit programs.



Panel Two:  Water Infrastructure


Maria Lehman is a Professional Engineer with diverse experience on more than 500 Public and Private sector projects over the last 27 years.  She served as Commissioner of Public Works for Erie County and currently works as Vice President and Transportation Business Sector Leader for Bergmann Associates.  Ms. Lehman stressed the need for wastewater infrastructure investment for America’s older urban areas.


Adam Krantz is Managing Director of Government & Public Affairs at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.   Previously Mr. Krantz was an associate editor at Inside Washington Publishers where his work focused on covering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and Congress’s national water quality initiatives.  Mr. Krantz, an attorney, also serves as the Vice President of the Federal Water Quality Association and Vice President of the Clean Water America Alliance.    Mr. Krantz discussed the environmental and economic benefits of a commitment to water infrastructure.



Panel Three:  Economic Development


Brian Reilly, the City of Buffalo’s Commissioner of Economic Development, has over 15 years of public and non profit sector experience in land use and economic planning, construction and real estate, public process design, community engagement and sustainable development.   Prior to coming to Buffalo, Brian directed Cleveland’s Economic Development Department, and while in Milwaukee he managed that city’s Menomonee (Me nom o nee) River Valley redevelopment where his work garnered national recognition including Sierra Club’s “Best 10 New Developments in the US (2006).”  Commissioner Reilly spoke on the economic development issues Buffalo encounters.


Abby Wilson is Co-Founder of Great Lakes Urban Exchange.  The GLUE coalition was founded to promote the power, aide in the positive transformation, and address the shared challenges of similarly-storied older industrial cities situated in the Great Lakes watershed.  Abby is Columbia University graduate with a degree in cultural anthropology.  Ms. Wilson discussed the need for regional collaboration and information sharing for restoring prosperity.








Older Cities Task Force Hearing

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Charlie Bartsch has more than 25 years experience in economic and community development program and policy analysis, focusing on brownfield reuse.  He is a nationally recognized authority on emerging public-private and state and federal brownfield financing.  Currently, he is Vice President, Senior Fellow for Human Services and Community Development and brownfield expert at ICF International.  Formerly, he was Director of Brownfield Studies at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.  Mr. Bartsch noted ways to maximize the impact of scarce federal resources. 


Robert Atkinson is the founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, DC-based technology policy think tank. He is author of the State New Economy Index series and the book, The Past And Future Of America’s Economy: Long Waves Of Innovation That Power Cycles Of Growth.  Mr. Atkinson is also a visiting Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.   Mr. Atkinson’s comments focused on clusters and competitiveness: a new federal role for stimulating regional economies. 


Congressman Higgins and Congressman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) were appointed to serve as Co-Chairs of the Older Cities Task Force by Chairman Jim Oberstar of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who also Co-Chairs the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition.  The task force is currently comprised of the following members:  Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY), Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA), Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA), Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Phil English (R-PA), Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI), Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. James McGovern (D-MD), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Rep. Bill Pascrell     (D-NJ), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Tim Ryan (D- OH), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).   



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