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DEC 23, 2014 - JAN 07, 2015

Dyster: "I'm The Gatekeeper of Casino Funds!"

By Anna M. Howard

December 23, 2014

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster thinks he is the "gatekeeper of the casino cash."

I know this because he said so on the Tom Darro show last Wednesday.

Allow me to explain why the mayor is wrong.

First, there are no gates at city hall. The mayor's office on the first floor has a door and inside sits the mayor.

One floor above the mayor is the city council office.

And, directly down the hall from the mayor's office is the Council Chambers, where the council meets and deliberates before voting on items of city business.

Many, if not most, of those items awaiting a council vote are from the mayor: such as casino cash expenditures that require council approval.

The approval of casino cash expenditures are, a collaborative effort, a blending of two branches of government: the legislative Council and the executive Mayor.

So, the mayor can't spend casino cash without authorization of the city council.

That council authorization should be by no means a rubber stamp. It should arrive after deliberation and the voting process.

Like love and marriage, or a baby and a baby carriage, the mayor and the council go together on casino expenditures…or they don't go at all.

While the mayor would have us believe that the casino cash is "mine all mine" to be divvied up as he sees fit via a routine procedural council vote that guarantees his profligate ways, the reality is quite the opposite.

The casino funds are "city funds" that move to the city like bed tax, property tax, sales tax, state or federal appropriations and so on.

The office of the mayor has no special hold or authority with regard to these casino monies…no more so than the usual responsibility to spend the funds honestly and in good faith with total transparency and with the support of a majority of the elected five members of the council.

During his Darro performance the mayor went one step further to illustrate how he believes he is indeed the "decider in chief" when it comes to casino dollars.

The mayor said, "the casino cash is like a family trust fund and I have to guard it."

No, Mr. Mayor, you aren't the attorney for the Ford Foundation, you were elected to serve as mayor until such time as your term ends or you resign.

A trust fund is a trust fund and a casino cash account is a casino cash account.

That's why they're called by different names.

As Malcolm X famously said, "You can put a shoe in an oven but that doesn't make it a biscuit."

Mayor Dyster's use of the language is troubling.

Troubling not because it's manipulative and heavy-handed, but troubling because his remarks betray a fundamental misunderstanding of mayoral powers…the mayor is over-reaching and he thinks we don't notice.

The casino cash resulted from the "city" losing 52 acres of prime downtown land and their convention center. The city's "take" from the Seneca Niagara casino is 25% of the state's 25% of casino slot revenue. That is city taxpayer money.

No, Mr. Mayor you are not the "gatekeeper" and you are not a "trust fund" attorney and you do not have unilateral powers to spend casino dollars, because the very process you use to spend those dollars sends you through the "gate" of the city council…a gate the council can figuratively close in your face if they choose.

And then you'd be unable to spend those casino dollars.

Mr. Mayor, let's have less talk about gate keeping and lawyers and trust funds and more talk about cooperation, transparency and what's good for the residents of Niagara Falls.





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