Council to Post Details of Hamister Deal Which Gives Mayor Power, Weakens Council
The Niagara Falls City Council, in a move meant to increase transparency and provide information to the community, is planning to post the 'Hamister Hotel' agreement on the city website, related to the proposed hotel at 310 Rainbow Blvd.
That 10-page “Proposed Development Agreement” was drafted by Mayor Dyster and USA Niagara and forwarded to the council on July 3 in preparation for what the mayor had hoped would have been passage at the July 8 council meeting.
“That ‘proposed development agreement’ was given to the Council one day before the July 4 holiday with absolutely no explanation or offer of explanation as to the various clauses contained in the document,” said Glen Choolokian, council chairman. “It seems that everyone has a strong opinion on this development package but no one has been able to read it.”
That should change once those controversial 10 pages are revealed on the city’s website. The mayor has claimed publicly that he had zero input into the actual creation of the document, yet the document clearly establishes the mayor and Craig Johnson, his corporation counsel, as the “deciders” in the agreement.
“A careful look at the papers reveals a troubling ‘reverter clause’ that could cost the city millions of dollars if we need to take the land back,” said Councilman Sam Fruscione. “The document also gives a suspicious amount of power to the mayor while removing the City Council from the picture and this could be a violation of the city charter,” added Fruscione.
While the current debate over details of the proposal has centered, to date, on the sale price of the land and the lack of transparency on the part of Mayor Dyster and USA Niagara, the wording in the agreement contains many troublesome areas such as the reverter clause, the powers of the mayor, the powers of the corporation counsel, potential amendments, and other concerns.
“The word ‘affiliate’ is used repeatedly in the proposal and then there is the question of whether the agreement even locks in the developer into having to actually build a hotel on that land. Those pages have holes that a truck can be driven through,” said Choolokian.
Councilman Bob Anderson, the third member of three-member majority that chose to table the agreement for further study, said, “I have to ask two questions in light of how this document is worded: 1) who is responsible for actually writing it; 2) why did the author write it in such a way as to favor the developer and downplay the city.”
The City Council hopes to have the “Proposed Development Agreement” for the Hamister project on the city website as soon as possible as a menu selection on the site located at www.niagarafallsusa.org
“It shouldn’t have to always be a constant request for transparency from city government,” said Fruscione. “When Mayor Dyster took office he pledged to bring a high level of transparency to city hall, but it never seems to go that way. I believe the residents and taxpayers should be able to study this document for themselves.”
Councilman Anderson noted, “My life experience tells me that when people make it difficult to get information, and when people present information in a way that is difficult to understand, then something is wrong.”
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Jul 30, 2013