There are experienced political observers who believe that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster's motive behind the creation of an Equal Employment Opportunity office in 2010 was a cynical political ploy.
The mayor, some believe, stoked the fears of the minority community so he could then hold himself out as their savior, the fireman who could extinguish the blaze of racism in Niagara Falls.
This "problem" he planned to solve seems to have been created largely from two incidents -- the lawsuit of the "Niagara Falls Six," a group of six black Department of Public Works (DPW) employees who sued the city for $16 million for racial discrimination within the DPW in 2003, and an isolated and bizarre incident, in August 2008, in which longtime DPW employee James R. Curtis posted a handwritten "whites only" sign above a work water fountain.
Curtis admitted his guilt in court and served probation. The presiding judge was satisfied.
Dyster, always ready to grandstand when the opportunity presents itself, tried repeatedly to have Curtis fired. The mayor failed.
Dyster's behavior in the Niagara Six case reveals the mayor's disturbing need to paint the city as a den of racial inequality. Dyster sided with the plaintiffs and said, "They fought for seven years for dignity for all people in the workplace. Two previous administrations fought back. But we chose to acknowledge our city's past flaws, settle the case, and get about the work of bringing our community together."
Dyster admitted we are flawed, though he is not.
He condemned the previous mayors, Vince Anello and Irene Elia, who in fact resisted the temptation to quickly cave and pay millions of our money to the six plaintiffs.
For the men who fought for seven years "for dignity in the workplace," Dyster offered the undignified sum of $33,000 each, or about $5,000 per year per man.
The racially sensitive mayor, who wants to teach us all how to get along, believed in the Niagara Six.
In fact, the mayor proudly displays a pencil rendering of the Niagara Six on his office wall.
He just didn't believe the Six should get the money they asked for.
This was a teachable moment, and "Professor" Dyster was instructing city residents as to the need for reparations.
Various DPW workers have told this writer, however, that the Six exaggerated what they were exposed to and that some of them had engaged in racially insensitive behavior themselves. Did Dyster investigate? No, in Mayor Dyster's world, the door of discrimination swings only one way.
All we know is that the Six settled a $16 million case for about $250,000 with a large portion of the award taken by their attorney.
If money paid versus money asked is any indicator of merit, it shows the Six were 15.6 percent right. Which is about what most DPW workers told this writer. In short, it's hardly proof of racism run wild in Niagara Falls.
As quoted in the Niagara Gazette on Nov. 23, 2008, the NAACP's Bill Bradberry said there are 550 city employees; 100 are black. That's 18 percent of the workforce.
The city of Niagara Falls, according to the 2000 U.S. Census -- what we had to work with during Dyster's anti-racist moves -- shows the city in total is comprised of about 18 percent blacks.
Nevertheless, Dyster says our city government, until he came along, was utterly racist. "(Our racism) is not going to change overnight," he told the Gazette in 2008, "but we are making a strong effort." What racism? Whose racism? What is he talking about?
Mayor Dyster hired an Equal Employment Opportunity director in 2010, Ruby Pulliam of Buffalo, at $60,000 annually, gave her an assistant at nearly $40,000 and installed the two new employees in generously appointed offices with new rugs, new furniture and new office equipment, including a $27,000 computer software program.
With the new EEO office open, Dyster declared that racial discrimination in city government was now officially dead.
You have to admire the politician: he invents or at least exacerbates a problem, proposes a solution then takes credit for solving the "problem."
Still, Dyster's pandering to black voters may backfire.
Carnell Burch, chief executive officer of TP2, a mentoring program at Harry F. Abate Elementary School, has thrown his hat into the mayoral ring.
Burch is black and likely to attract a fair number of voters both white and black, once his message of intelligent, non-racially motivated governance gets a wider audience.
Dyster has generously spent the public's money pandering to black voters. He has created an EEO department, settled the Niagara Six with a cash payout, spent thousands trying to fire Curtis for a foolish sign, hired Kevin Cottrell at a $74,000 salary to create the Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, and dedicated $350,000 yearly in casino cash to fund the Underground Railroad Commission.
Dyster has invested millions of our money to secure the black vote.
Now a black man has entered the mayor's race.
Is there no justice in this world?
John Accardo, who trounced Francine Del Monte in the Democratic primary for state assembly and carried the city in the general election, is contemplating a run for mayor. Now in Dyster's world of ethnic and racial politics, he may be thinking he may lose the black vote (18 percent) to Burch and the Italian vote (23 percent) to Accardo.
A three-way primary -- with the popular Accardo, the vibrant Burch and the increasingly unpopular Dyster -- could mean yet another one-term mayor served up cold by voters tired of being lied to and misled.
Dyster's crafty pandering to blacks is significant and more revealing in light of the fact that we learned, according to several sources within the Democratic Party in Niagara Falls, that Dyster's political operatives are now planning a broadside on Councilman Robert Anderson, who is seeking a third term on the Council.
This "dirty-tricks" gang is the same crew that mailed anonymous postcards attacking Lewis "Babe" Rotella in the 2007 mayoral race. One mailer portrayed Rotella with his head sticking out of a pothole and another showed pigs at a trough.
These were, of course, unsigned mailings, but since Dyster was Rotella's only Democratic Party primary opponent, no one had anything to gain by these cowardly and crude mailings other than Dyster.
Look for the same against Anderson.
Anderson -- one of two black council members -- has repeatedly refused to rubberstamp the mayor's agenda, choosing instead to vote his conscience.
Racism is the product of an unenlightened, deluded mind, and a narrow, constricted, unhealthy heart. A savage heart, a clouded mind, devoid of simple recognition of our joint and wondrous humanity -- that is the racist.
But what is to be said of a man who uses a phony crusade against racism as a tool to secure a political advantage?
Mayor Paul Dyster declined to be interviewed for this story.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||April 5, 2011|