The King and His Courtiers: King James Glynn watches as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs a deal that will short change New York State residents out of $100 million and put it in Glynn's pockets. Happily watching behind (left to right) are Mayor Paul Dyster, Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, Christopher Glynn, son of James, Senator George Maziarz, and Rose Harvey, commissioner, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Public officials in Ontario opted for a lease for the boat tours below Niagara Falls that pays their parks more than $10 million a year, while their counterpart officials in New York settled for $350,000 per year for the same boat tours.
In Canada, Hornblower Niagara Cruises outbid the Maid of the Mist in a deal that will see them pay Ontario about 25 percent of gross revenues for 30 years, more than $500 million all told.
On the American side, the Maid of the Mist will pay eight percent of boat tour sales.
To be fair, a greater percentage of the tour boat business formerly operated by Jimmy Glynn's antiquated Maid of the Mist operation did come from the Canadian side. That is because so many tourists were already being lured across the river by the glitz and glamour that is Niagara Falls, Ont..
That percentage is likely to widen in years to come, as the sleek and modern boats operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises from the Canadian side will certainly cause more excitement in the river basin than the old tubs sailing under the Maid of the Mist pennant.
Can Glynn's tired operation even continue for 30 more years given the shrinking revenues the company can expect to see in years to come?
If it can't, there's only one institution that can be blamed, and that's the Niagara Falls Reporter.
While the Glynn family and the politicians they own bitterly blame this newspaper for the company's loss of the Canadian lease, Canadian officials and taxpayers have sung the Reporter's praise since we began publishing an ongoing series of investigative articles on the Maid of the Mist's "special relationship" with the governments of both New York and Ontario more than five years ago.
"Among those who helped achieve fairness in Ontario was, of all things, a New York state weekly newspaper -- the Niagara Falls Reporter," said former Ontario Parks Commissioner Bob Gale. "Never in my life have I been more proud of the press, realizing that without them, government can and will run amok."
A large grassroots organization developed in the wake of our stories in Ontario that led to a demand that the Canadian Maid of the Mist lease go out to bid.
"Credit must be given to the importance of the timely reporting of the Niagara Falls Reporter," said Preserve Our Parks Coordinator Patricia Mangoff. "Special thanks to the tireless work of Frank Parlato in gathering factual information that helped to unveil the corruption, lies and bad business policies of the old regime. We sent copies of the Reporter by registered mail to every member of the Ontario legislature, and this helped turn the political tide."
Media outlets from the New York Times to the Toronto Globe and Mail paraphrased the Reporter's coverage.
Unfortunately, the forces arrayed on the New York side of the river to aid Glynn were better organized than those on the Canadian side.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote letters to Canadian government officials advocating against the open bidding process in order to protect Glynn's interests, but the tide was too strong.
On this side of the river, the fix was in.
There is no logical reason why anyone would accept $105 million or $350,000 a year when they could have gotten as much as $300 million, or $10 million a year, for the same concession.
The truly extraordinary effort by New York politicians to protect the Glynn family business is unprecedented.
It's not like the Maid of the Mist employs thousands, or even hundreds of people. All of those employees are seasonal, with full timers collecting government issued unemployment checks, paid for with your tax dollars, during the seven-month off season.
As far as man-hours are concerned, the Maid of the Mist operation racks up fewer than Wal-Mart or any major department store here, and perhaps fewer than the Como Restaurant.
Would U.S. senators, congressmen, the governor's office, state lawmakers and the mayor of Niagara Falls put themselves out if one of those businesses was in danger of closing?
For some reason they did for Glynn.