Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster knew well in advance that the Seneca Nation of Indians planned to end its revenue sharing agreement with the state in March of this year, and rejected an invitation by tribal leaders to enter into discussions that would have resulted in direct payments to the city instead.
The Seneca have vowed to never again pay the state anything in exchange for the “right” to operate their casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca, and there is nothing in the 2013 Compact agreement with the state that would require them to do so.
Notwithstanding the Niagara County Legislature’s resolution last week urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do something about the standoff, there appears to be nothing the governor can do. Despite the payments ending seven months ago, he hasn’t called for a single meeting with the Seneca. He only just got around to filing for arbitration last month, having been threatening to since the impasse began.
But Mayor Dyster knew, numerous sources on and off the reservation confirmed this week.
“The failure of local officials to take the Seneca up on meetings to address any kind of direct payments is a failure of local leadership,” said John Kane, a Mohawk and the host of the popular “Let’s Talk Native” radio program.
“This offer was not only rejected, it was considered too much of a risk to entertain,” he added. “If state officials really believed they would be successful in arbitration, the process would have begun by now.”
For the past nine years, the mayor has been squandering casino cash to plug gaps in the general fund budget, hand out raises to city workers and hire even more city workers, patch potholes, promote rock concerts, festivals and other attractions that couldn’t pay their own way, hire legions of outside consultants and lawyers and throw money at fly-by-night developers.
In the end, he spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars and, when former city Controller Maria Brown called him on it, he fired her.
He couldn’t fire state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli though, who earlier this year issued a blistering audit of city finances that predicted Niagara Falls would be completely broke by December.
In a recent interview, Dr. Dyster’s buddy in Albany, Gov. Cuomo, laughed out loud when it was suggested that the state might bail the city out in the wake of the loss of casino revenue. He jokingly suggested that the city might need to bail him out instead.
“Arbitration will not bring revenue sharing back and Western New York should be glad about that,” Mr. Kane said. “A billion dollars was sucked out of the region over the term of revenue sharing, and a billion more would be over the next seven years if the governor had his way.”
And Mayor Dyster, who has spent not insignificant sums of casino revenue of canoe launches on Cayuga Creek, Cayuga Island and at Hyde Park, now finds himself up the creek without a paddle.