My partner Frank Parlato and I are often asked why -- rather than merely exposing and commenting on what passes for political intercourse here -- we don't put our money where our mouths are and actually run for office. Usually they ask why one of us doesn't run for mayor.
Actually there are many reasons.
To begin with, being a public official in Niagara Falls would require you actually to be in Niagara Falls most of the time. This would be totally unacceptable. Frank hates the winters and prefers to spend that portion of the year in Florida.
I suppose that with teleconferencing and such, it would be possible to install a huge screen in the City Council chambers and just have his big head there commenting on stuff and barking out commands, but I'm not sure that would fly in this traditional town.
As for myself, while I don't mind the snow as much as he does, my need to get away strikes suddenly and often. The 13 years I've spent in Niagara Falls is the longest I have lived in one municipality in my whole entire life, and if I couldn't go to New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Mexico for a week or two whenever the mood struck me, I'd go nuts. More nuts than I already am, even.
Then there's the question of the people you'd have to associate with. Paul Dyster used to like to say he wasn't a politician, but he's certainly a politician now, and after covering politicians for the past 35 years, I've come to detest them as a class of humans -- with certain exceptions, of course.
A City Hall gig would require one to see politicians on a regular basis and, again, that would be entirely unsatisfactory.
The mayor is especially hamstrung in this regard. You go in thinking you're going to shake things up and the first two guys you see are "City Planner" Tom DeSantis and City Attorney Tom O'Donnell -- who, together, are largely responsible for the mess Niagara Falls is today.
Anyone who can see evidence of any planning at all here has better eyes than I do, and DeSantis has been in charge of planning for more than 20 years.
The list of cases lost by O'Donnell on behalf of the city in recent decades, or "settled" by huge payouts, would fill a book the size of Ma Bell's, and needn't be rehashed here.
Neither DeSantis nor O'Donnell can be fired, as they are protected under Civil Service regulations that were drawn up by petty bureaucrats such as themselves in order to ensure that they couldn't be fired despite what can only be called comic ineptitude and gross malfeasance.
What's the point of being the boss when you can't even fire the people responsible for the mess you inherited?
Another thing that turns us off on the whole running-for-office idea is the fact that, once you get elected, you are apparently required to start lying like a rug. A big reason for this, I think, is that the elected official discovers the daily newspapers will print whatever you say whether it's the truth or not and not even bother to look into it further.
When Vince Anello was mayor, the Niagara Gazette, Buffalo Business First and the Buffalo News all permitted him to lie about his taking payoffs and to slander this newspaper for three-and-a-half years.
When he ended up going off to federal prison, the papers printed the fact as though there were no back-story, as though they hadn't enabled his criminal regime to continue unchecked.
The truth of the matter is that Frank and I were raised in households where lying was considered, well, unacceptable.
So the fact you'd have to stay here for most of the year, combined with the fact that you couldn't even fire the bums who screwed the town up so badly in the first place, and then add in the distasteful interaction with politicians and the lying requirement, and you get a pretty clear view of why we could never run for public office.
But another difficulty makes running problematic.
See, the biggest problem would be that you actually might win. Sure, the Election Night party would be fun -- I'm still watching the video of Dyster's slurred victory speech when he trounced John Accardo in last month's Democratic Primary. The beer was flowing, the schnapps was all pepperminty, the pizza was cold, and the young and beautiful future councilwoman Alicia Liable looked up all moony-eyed, hanging onto the victor's every word.
Yeah, that part would be great alright. You'd wake up a little hung over the next morning, maybe skip going into the office altogether. Eventually you'd go back into work, shuffle some papers, take lunch with some campaign contributors and call the guys who run you up in Buffalo.
Wednesday, Thursday would come and go, and then Friday morning somebody from the comptroller's office would come down with the envelope that contained your check.
For Paul Dyster, it's a big day. That $1,346.15 weekly before taxes represents the most he's ever made in his whole life.
Frank and I couldn't afford the pay cut.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Oct. 18, 2011|