|Noblesse oblige: Councilman Sam Fruscione graciously accepted the
apology of Roger Spurback for his posting of an anti-Italian comment on
The Niagara Falls City Council seemed to be a more reflective body as it sat in consideration of financial matters on Monday afternoon. The session was different from previous times as their meeting time was advanced to eliminate the dinner break. This time (and going forward for the foreseeable future), they met at 4 PM for their work session, took a 15 minutes recess, and then convened their regular meeting.
Speakers included Community Development Commissioner Seth Piccirillo, who presented his demolition plan, and Police Chief Bryan DalPorto, who, along with Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo, publicly commended citizen Antoine Moore for his acts of heroism in rescuing a one year old child last week.
Also of note was speaker Roger Spurback, leader of the Niagara Falls block clubs, who apologized to Council member Sam Fruscione for bigoted statements he posted on his Facebook page. Spurback stated that he was “a big enough person to right a wrong” and extended his sincere apology to Fruscione. He felt he made his original remark in haste, but not hatred, as he castigated the councilmember for not supporting community organizations.
Mayor Paul Dyster sought to amend the agenda to authorize emergency repairs to City Hall’s basement transformer, which overheated over the weekend. Councilman Robert Anderson noted that but for the Council’s cost saving measures, there would not be funding available to take care of this unexpected expenditure.
Items of contention on the council agenda included the council’s action to formally decline the challenge grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation of $15,000 to benefit the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC). The council majority of Robert Anderson, Sam Fruscione and Council President Glenn Choolokian voted to turn down the funds. Afterwards, Mayor Dyster explained that the vote was necessary to pave the way for the NACC to approach the Foundation for funding independently of the city.
The council also passed a resolution to freeze spending on non-essential services for the remainder of the year. Citing the lack of a financial plan, Choolokian spoke to the necessity of the action. “It seemed like they really didn’t have a plan going into this year. So the only thing I’m stressing is we’ve got to be conservative, we’ve got to start cutting because we don’t know what’s going to happen with the casino money. Hopefully, we’ll work together and sort out a plan for the next year without raising taxes, without cutting services or laying off people.”
The freeze passed with the support of the majority, while Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker opposed the freeze. Walker raised concerns over items previously approved in the budget and the process stated in the resolution requiring spending requests to go to the council president as opposed to the full council.
With the freeze in place, there will not likely be any more public spending for concert series or unnecessary consultants. This action also put an end to the decades-long tradition of meeting day dinners at the Como, paid for by the taxpayers, as well as the Mayor's frequent trips and taxpayer funded dinners.