Restaino Hoping to Make Mayoral Dream Come True

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By: Tony Farina

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” former City Court Judge Robert Restaino told this reporter in January of 2017 when asked if he was contemplating a run for mayor of Niagara Falls sometime in the future.

In that interview, Restaino said “I have been going to places where people are– coffee shops, senior centers, and neighborhoods, and in my opinion more people than not have breathed a sigh of relief that I might run.”

The moment he has been thinking about for a long time has arrived. This week, on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Como Restaurant on Pine Ave., Robert Restaino will officially announce his candidacy for mayor of Niagara Falls in 2019.  It may be a year away, but Restaino is ready to begin his bid to give the city a new vision for the future.

“I think he would provide very strong leadership,” says Jerry Alaimo, a small business owner in Niagara Falls who is hoping for better days ahead for the city he calls home.

Restaino, a youthful 59 years old, indeed has provided strong leadership as president of the Niagara Falls School Board which has increased its fund balance by $9.7 million over the last three years leading to a bond upgrade this year by the Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency.

In a July interview, a restrained Restaino told this newspaper “we need to offer our citizens hope for the future, a new vision,” adding that he didn’t think the current administration has done enough to grow the non-tourism side of the city.

In that same interview, he hinted at his political platform, saying “we have large industrial areas of the city that are vacant and we need to do a better job of marketing those opportunities.  We need to put ourselves squarely in the job market, especially in the industries of the day; we need to put ourselves in the hunt.”

With the city facing serious financial challenges with depleted reserves and the loss of casino revenue due to the standoff between the state and the Seneca Nation, Restaino says it will take a combination of things to get though the crisis, like promoting shared government services, as the school district has done, to reduce costs.

“We need to be innovative and creative,” says Restaino. “Find ways to get it done.”

The one blemish on Restaino’s resume occurred in 2005 when he temporarily jailed 46 spectators in Domestic Violence Court when none of them would admit to a ringing cellphone that was making conducting court business impossible.  Despite a 12-year record as a distinguished jurist, he was punished by removal from the bench for the phone incident.

“I’ve admitted I made a mistake,” he told this newspaper two years ago, saying he told the Judicial Conduct Commission that he had been under stress in his personal life at the time of the incident.

Restaino says, “I owned up to it and I think most people realize it doesn’t define me.”

Given his record as the leading vote-getter in two school district elections since then and his strong showing in Niagara Falls in a State Assembly race in 2012, it appears voters have concurred that what happened in the courtroom in 2005 does not define Robert Restaino.

Restaino, a Democrat, now joins Seth Piccirillo, a top aide to current Mayor Paul Dyster, as the only announced candidates for mayor.  Like Restaino, Piccirillo is a Democrat setting up a possible primary next September which could turn into a three-way race if Dyster bids for a fourth term.  No Republicans have signaled interest in running at this time.

For his part, Piccirillo recently told the Niagara Gazette he will run as his own man, signaling his intent to try to distance himself from Dyster as the city’s financial problems escalate.  As community development director for the last six years as the city crumbled, Piccirillo won’t have an easy time escaping Dyster’s shadow.

Voters can expect Restaino to lay out some of his plans for the upcoming campaign at Wednesday’s event at the Como Restaurant where refreshments will be served.

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