In the 11 years since the Niagara Falls Reporter was founded, there have been many elections. Both the winners and the losers in each of them have promised to turn the city around, create jobs, reduce crime and do something about the Robert Moses Parkway.
What has actually happened is that the city has continued its downward spiral, jobs have been lost, crime has gotten out of control, and the blighted parkway remains an ugly blotch on our waterfront.
More than ever, Niagara Falls looks like a war zone or a place recently visited by a Category 3 hurricane.
Mayor Paul Dyster has held public office for eight of those 11 years, first as a city councilman and then as mayor. He has watched helplessly as nearly 10,000 of the city's best and brightest fled for more hospitable places, and has shown himself to be incapable of nourishing private sector employment.
We further believe he has a hard time telling the truth, and the sheer number of his campaign contributors who have business before the city causes us to wonder whether contracts are being awarded in the best interests of the city or in the best interests of Dyster himself.
Dyster's failure to do anything when it was found that a halfway house for dangerous sex offenders had been set up virtually next door to the Niagara Street Elementary School -- "They have to live somewhere," he said famously -- was a disgrace, and his anti-police policies have street patrol officers questioning whether it's worth it to go after criminals who might lodge a complaint at City Hall.
His association with -- and defense of -- unsavory characters like Rico Liberale of RED Demolition, while at the same time persecuting honest, hardworking people like former building commissioner Guy Bax, clearly shows a lapse in character. He is, quite simply, a phony.
And his disastrous hiring policies -- a city engineer unlicensed to practice engineering anywhere in the United States, a racist and seriously ill fire chief, and an economic development director who proved to be interested only in his own economic development -- are the subject of jokes in the city.
Dyster's philosophy centers around the belief that nearly every problem confronting society is best solved by government.
He believes that people who work hard every day to own a home or a business should have to pay to make life better for those unwilling to work.
Lavishing millions on the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and the Niagara County Community College culinary center, and proposing millions more for an "Underground Railroad Interpretive Center," shows his propensity for making untalented artists and the city's growing minority population feel better about themselves at taxpayer expense, while at the same time dealing a death blow to the city's few locally owned restaurants.
How anyone could look at the Dyster record, which includes no fewer than four property tax increases, and think that Niagara Falls is better off under his insipid brand of leadership is completely beyond us.
His single proudest boast is that he managed to get through his first term as mayor without being indicted by the feds, as was his predecessor in office, Vince Anello. Whether his luck will hold for another four years is a topic currently open to debate.
His opponent in tomorrow's election, Johnny Destino, has conducted a shoestring campaign, playing David to Dyster's Goliath. His tenure as a member of the school board has shown him to be unafraid of taking on entrenched establishment interests in the name of the taxpaying public, regardless of personal cost.
An attorney, Destino is the perfect candidate to shake up the city's moribund law department, which has not won a single court case in recent memory.
He's young and energetic, has a beautiful family, and is exactly the type of person Dyster claims to be attracting to the city.
More importantly, though, Destino knows something Dyster has a complete inability to understand. He knows that high taxes and an inhospitable attitude toward private enterprise have no place on the road to prosperity.
Destino understands that a government that thinks it knows more than the businessman about business, and acts accordingly, serves actually to drive business away. The people of Niagara Falls currently pay the highest property taxes in proportion to value of any place in the United States, and yet the per capita income here stands at a shameful $18,000. Unemployment is high and nearly 70 percent of residents are collecting some form of government benefits. The business-friendly Destino undoubtedly would buck these trends, and for that reason alone he gets our endorsement for mayor.
The city council race is another matter. Three candidates -- incumbent Bob Anderson, former councilman Glenn Choolokian and newcomer Alicia Laible -- are running for two open seats.
Anderson may be the most popular councilman in the city's history and will win whether he gets the Reporter's endorsement or not. In fact, a Reporter endorsement actually might cost him a few votes.
He's the strongest member of one of the weakest city councils of the young century, a rare independent voice in a sea of conformity and mediocrity. If you only vote for one candidate in tomorrow's election, it should be Bob Anderson.
That leaves Choolokian and Laible.
Like Councilwoman Kristin Grandinetti, Laible is a creation of the Dyster machine. While Grandinetti on several occasions has shown a surprising independence, she generally goes along with the administration's policies, particularly on fiscal matters.
Laible likely would deliver more of the same, and that's why our endorsement goes to Glenn Choolokian.
We wonder seriously whether, regardless of whom you decide to vote for, it will matter even a little. We wonder whether Niagara Falls simply isn't too far gone for it to make any difference.
For the past 11 years, the Reporter has been deeply involved in Niagara Falls politics. We've endorsed Republicans and we've endorsed Democrats. We have made some mistakes -- Francine Del Monte and Vince Anello quickly spring to mind -- but for the most part the candidates we've backed have struck us as reasonable, sincere people.
It has seemingly done no good at all, and our interest in Niagara Falls politics is waning rapidly.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Nov. 7, 2011|