|The taxpayers will no longer pay for the art of beer, thanks to the majority on the council; Sam Fruscione, Robert Anderson and Glenn Choolokian. Above, an artist rests in between performances.
Fruscione is right. This is what they all say, every time we try to make any cut in the budget: “Don’t cut you; don’t cut me; cut the man behind the tree.”
That’s what they all say.
No one ever wants to get off the dole, or off the public teat.
So it was no surprise when a story appeared in the Niagara Gazette Sunday proving the point.
It began, “Councilman Sam Fruscione is questioning whether the use of Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC) funds to put on a fund-raiser started by Mayor Paul Dyster and his wife, Rebecca, is improper.”
They own a beer brewing supply store called Niagara Traditions Homebrew.
Over the past three years, NACC has spent $12,017.92 of taxpayer money on the Art of Beer, an event the Dysters helped start as a “fund-raiser” for NACC in 2007.
The story continued: “Fruscione said use of bed tax funds to throw an event — which he characterized as ‘a boozy party’ — created by the mayor (whose wife owns a beer supply store) is ‘very unethical.’”
It is unethical.
For the sake of argument, let's say Fruscione owns a pasta company called “Pasta Tradition.”
And, as an elected official, he gets city funds directed over to the Cristoforo Colombo Society where he has friends, a political base and a membership.
And some of those city funds go to support “The Art of Pasta” at the hall which brings Fruscione’s friends, fellow pasta makers and pasta buyers to the table and Fruscione ends up getting a lot of pasta orders from the deal...and it just so happens that the Como and Michael's buy a lot of pasta from Fruscione, and they also donate to his campaign.
If this shoe were on Fruscione’s foot, how do you think the media would cover it?
But there is a deeper issue than whether or not the mayor and his wife profit indirectly from this beer blast.
Why do taxpayers - whether hotel owners, business owners, or residential property owners - have to pay for a private, non-profit's fund-raiser and booze party?
Fruscione said in the story that he and other taxpayers should not be “paying for beer” for the festival. And he's right.
“I don’t think $4,500 of taxpayer money should be going to a beer festival,” he reiterated.
And the mere fact that the money did not go directly to buy beer because participating microbreweries donate beer in exchange for the publicity they get from the event is pretty slim parsing.
Whether taxpayers pay for the beer or the glasses to drink it from, is utterly irrelevant.
Taxpayer should not pay for beer blasts. Period!
And, of course, Dyster is too closely connected to NACC and beer and the public in his role as mayor for this to pass the smell test.
Dyster was on the board of both the NACC and the chairman of the Art of Beer before running for mayor.
It was then fairly laughable to read that he “left those posts before announcing his bid for office,” as the Gazette reports, and he “rescinded his partnership in the (beer) business that (his wife) Rebecca now runs by herself.”
Dyster says he no longer is involved in his own beer business. Really? Since when? The art of beer has been going on since 2007.
The January edition of Buffalo Spree - page 28 - in a lengthy puff article on Dyster titled “Hanging tough in Niagara Falls” opens with this paragraph:
"Dyster was re-elected last November, but he still helps his wife run Niagara Tradition, the home brew business he started after returning to his hometown in the early nineties without a job."
He's no longer part of the company?
So he doesn't benefit from his wife's business success?
It's not part of his household income?
Is any of his home written off as a home office or as part of the company?
Has he/does he use his city vehicle to drive to the business or conduct business for his wife's business?
How many people who do business with him as mayor (contractors, consultants, and campaign contributors) do business with his wife?
Several brewing outfits or bars contribute to his campaigns.
We are told he carries two cell phones with him at all times; we assume one is a city phone...what about the other?
It is rumored that a lot of Buffalo heavy hitters put money into his pocket by "purchasing" his beer supplies. Is it true? Would
Dyster be willing to identify the complete customer list of his “wife’s” business?
Can we draw a line from his elected office to his beer company to city-funded beer events that put cash in his pocket?...enough said.
The mayor said that Fruscione’s “characterization” of the event as a “beer swilling party” is not accurate.
The Mayor boasts that he is a certified beer judge (isn't every beer drinker?).
Is Dyster saying that everyone goes home sober as a lord?
The Gazette story goes on to say: “Beer festivals require specific licensing that requires all proceeds to go to a non-profit and limits the amount of beer that can be served in each glass, (Dyster) said.”
Small glasses. Instead of one big 20 ounce mug, you drink 10 smaller, 5-ounce glasses.
Now here is where the article gets truly interesting: “Documents supplied by Lou Townsend, the NACC’s director of finance,” the story reports, “show that while the organization spent $11,748 over the last three years to host the event, it took in $49,944, making for a net gain of $37,926 for the arts center.”
Whoa. Did you get that?
The beer blast made $37,926.
Then why, why the hell do taxpayers have to pay for the NACC/Dyster’s highly profitable beer event?
If it made a net profit of $37,926, why can’t the NACC fund it without public dollars?
Their response: Don’t cut you; don’t cut me; cut the man behind the tree.
We can’t even cut a beer blast from the budget without people complaining. Thank goodness the council majority had the courage to stand up and start to cut the waste.