Steven H. Siegel
Another Voice, Buffalo News, 3/7/07
Having suffered a series of legal setbacks followed by the unexplained resignation of three of its top executives, the Seneca Gaming Corp., in its continuing efforts to justify the economically unjustifiable, has now unveiled its newest “hired gun” — Jonathan Taylor.
Recently in this column, Taylor attacked a respected local citizen. The citizen’s crime was that she had dared to join a chorus of experts who, in a recent article in The Buffalo News, had all criticized Taylor’s flawed research into the supposed economic advantages of building a casino in downtown Buffalo.
It may be useful to question why Taylor, who lives in Arizona and has never professed any concern about Buffalo, would not only attempt to tell more than 900,000 people what is best for them, but would launch a personal attack against a longtime Buffalo resident and community leader.
Taylor is a paid consultant for the Seneca Gaming Corp. He generates data to support the Gaming Corp.’s pre-existing but previously unsupported claims that the proposed casino will be an economic boon. In other words, his task was to somehow manage to put the corporation’s cart before the horse by finding a way to support economic claims that were weak to start with.
But good research starts with a hypothesis followed by a methodology that proves or disproves that hypothesis — you do not state a conclusion and then hire someone to justify it.
As a research affiliate for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, Taylor has researched ways the American Indian can produce and sustain economic and social development.
Economically, casino gambling was identified as a major opportunity, but a significant roadblock was convincing the host community that a casino was in its best economic interest. So Taylor became a consultant specializing in research that always presented the conclusion that the casino would be an economic boon to the community.
Indeed, Taylor’s resume, located on the Udall Center for the Study of Public Policy Web page, states: “He also directs Lexecon’s [a consulting firm] practice in support of [my italics] Native American economic development, where he provides consulting expertise to tribes and bands in the United States and Canada. . . . He has authored or supported testimony in litigation and public hearings for a number of Native American groups needing economic analysis to support treaty rights or tribal policies.”
Taylor is not an academician and, by his own admission, provides paid services intended to justify economic projects proposed by Native American groups. Therefore, Taylor is hardly an unbiased voice whose opinions we can rely on in the casino debate.
Steven H. Siegel is a senior faculty member at Niagara University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management. He is responsible for most of the research showing the negative impact of a casino on the local economy.