|They worked together to make history: Former Chairman Sam Fruscione and Chairman Glenn Choolokian.
In 2011, council candidate Glenn Choolokian captured a seat on the City Council, barely finishing ahead of the next closest candidate, Alicia Laible.
4,705 votes to 4,473.
That’s a slim win by any political standard; one of the slimmest in city council history.
After only one year in office, Choolokian has assumed the reins of the City Council chair, effective January 7.
Choolokian’s political philosophy is one of fiscal restraint and government transparency – two greatly needed items in Niagara Falls and, in fact, throughout the nation.
He is rather direct, if not blunt (though never brusque). As a result, some of the entrenched bureaucracy and political establishment have already begun expressing discomfort at his sudden rise in this city.
These insiders have characterized his upcoming chairmanship as rather bad news for bureaucrats and corporate welfare recipients everywhere.
And it is a bad day for these special interests groups, although a good one for those taxpayers in this city who believe they are paying too much in taxes, if there are any taxpayers remaining who think like this.
Last year, Choolokian worked with Council Chairman Sam Fruscione and popular Councilman Bob Anderson to accomplish something that should go down in the Good Governance Hall of Fame: they took a proposed “disaster budget” containing an 8.3 % tax increase and reduced it to zero.
It was astoundingly good work by elected officials, who, for their efforts, are now being derogatorily referred to as “that three-council majority,” with the foresight of Mr. Magoo. Perhaps only in Niagara Falls would a fierce holding of the line on taxes by elected officials draw such ill-informed assessment.
Still, one must admit that Choolokian has an odd view of government, one that hearkens to a day when America was successful herself; an America where all were expected to pull their own weight and not be mere dependents of a nanny government.
Choolokian says that overtaxing homeowners and businesses is a recipe for disaster and no amount of government spending will work, since all the fine spending comes out of the people’s pockets.
Choolokian said he never saw a government bureaucrat who knew how to spend your money better than you do.
Choolokian has questioned the wisdom of planning and building a $50 million train station. He was never sold on the idea of publicly funding entertainment like the Hard Rock Café Concerts or the Holiday Market, especially when the direct beneficiaries of these events had more than enough of their own cash to foot the bill.
He opposed the program to pay out of town people who happened to graduate from some college to live in Niagara Falls since, as he said, a city should not pay people to live there.
He led the charge to prevent the city from allowing potentially toxic fracking water to be dumped into our drinking water; and famously led the charge to eliminate the profligate spending of more than $3 million per year to fund USA Niagara, a state agency, with money that was supposed to be invested in the city.
With USA Niagara’s dubious track record of development and stellar record of giving millionaires corporate welfare, Choolokian, together with Fruscione and Anderson, had the guts to go against the bureaucracy.
Choolokian also likes to ask the inconvenient questions about expenditures that, but for his inquiries, would go unasked and unanswered. He reminds one of what was said of Atticus Finch in the book To Kill A Mockingbird: “There are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us.”
Glenn Choolokian is one such man.
While other politicians love to read their names in the paper and see their pictures taken at the ribbon cutting for corporate welfare boondoggles, like giving the millionaire hotelier Faisal Merani more than a million dollars to fancy up his hotels, Choolokian is instead filled with disdain.
He is one politician who does not look for his own face in the paper or even see the happy face of the campaign contributor who government just repaid with a handsome grant for their business.
He sees the face of the hard working taxpayer, who does not realize that the government is using his own money to do these wonderful corporate welfare/development schemes.
Choolokian knows many taxpayers do not understand that it is the taxpayer and his family who have less than they should because taxes are high and new jobs are not created because taxes are high.
Choolokian does not cheer when the billion-dollar Hard Rock Corporation, for instance, gets $650,000 of the taxpayers’ money to put on a bunch of happy “free” concerts.
Who are they free for?
While other politicians applaud and have their photos taken next to the stars, Choolokian stays away and thinks about the taxpayers.
He realizes many working men and women had to get up early in the morning to go to work to pay taxes. No, it was not the government – the government has no money of its own to spend but only that which it takes from the working people – it was the people who paid. And paid.
He envisions a world where there are less taxes.
Funny guy, that Choolokian. He looks at life funny. He believes, and he says so, that if taxes are low enough people will pay money to live here. And private concert promoters will stage concerts here with their own money and the people who live here will have enough money of their own to pay for their own concerts.
We don’t need to tax people and make them poorer so that they can have free concerts and thank the government for putting on free concerts, he says.
Spending restraint; limited government involvement in economic development; transparency at all times; and, lots of questions, that need to be asked.
That good government might be possible. That good government may not be too much to ask for. This is what Choolokian stands for.
Now he will be council chairman.
It has been a dark, long and lonely journey through the tunnel of the city of Niagara Falls. And last year 232 voters decided that the city would have a different City Council and a different way of doing the people’s business.
And, at the end of the tunnel, there appears to be the faintest glimmer of light, and in our minds, that light is Glenn Choolokian.