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Fruscione Stands for the People of the Falls

By Frank Parlato

L-R Sen. Geroge Maziarz, Nik Wallenda, Sam Fruscione, Glenn Choolokian

This is the drawing of the proposed Hamister hotel. Hamister admits he does not yet have the financing. Can he get it? No one knows.
Mayor Paul Dyster will do almost anything to please Mark Hamister.
Kristen Grandinetti will do almost anything to please Mayor Dyster.

My friend, I'll say it clear:

Sam Fruscione, a two-term councilmember, seeking reelection to his third term, has been the target over a third rate hotel project.

Politicians, the media and millionaire developers, most of whom do not live in Niagara Falls , have been centered on opposing Fruscione's insistence on transparency on the Hamister hotel proposal.

A gathering of special interests aligned against one.

They characterized his questioning of the Hamister deal as man's first disobedience.

As if Fruscione had eaten the fruit of that forbidden tree.

The loss of Hamister is the loss of Eden .

Still it was a remarkable gesture of political independence for Fruscione to stand up against that array of might and wealth and political and media pressure.

"People can have their opinions about everything in the world," I can hear him saying, "but people's opinions end where the tip of my nose begins.”

Unlike his opponents he does not grow desperate.

He is Mayor Paul Dyster’s number one target.

"I'm a mayor," Dyster said. "... I'm trying to straighten out one of the most crooked cities in the U.S.A. "

But Fruscione is not frightened by noises.

Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

He served his wife in her time of illness and he once again heard her laughter in the dark and the web of their children's voices in bright air.

He nursed her back to health.

And saw the glitter of sunlight with her again and the glory of stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbors, as the poet said.

And when Dyster submitted his "disaster budget" last year and told the city he could do no better than to raise our taxes by eight percent and lay off 20 good men and solid women, Fruscione took that budget in his hands and fixed it and hurled it back at Dyster, cutting the tax hike from eight percent to zero and restored all 20 jobs.

Then now about rats.

Unlike the other council candidates, Fruscione was the one to attend and meet the people who live near Covanta and are plagued with rats.

Kristen Grandinetti and Dyster portrayed themselves as helping with the rat problem.

Grandinetti, Andrew Touma, Charles Walker never visited the neighborhood.

Even the greatest fool can accomplish a task if it were after his or her heart.

But the intelligent ones are those who can convert every work into one that suits their taste. Fruscione showed up in the neighborhood and dealt with rats.

What can anyone say about a mayor who worries about hurting the feelings of a little baby Hamister, who will quit a $25 million deal because of a little bitty flier, a Mayor who worries about the council damaging the city reputation on a hotel deal when the city is literally being taken over by rats?

Fruscione led the council to approve the money to cut the weeds behind the houses; Fruscione and the council majority had the grit to take on both the DOT and Covanta.

To get the rats, to kill the rats.

Rats under the pavements trembling, under the buildings trembling, under the broken bones of cities.

Dyster has done nothing."

Dyster is grandstanding.

Dyster is toying with the people. He worries about offending Covanta.

One suspects Dyster is not repulsed by rats but by people, the plainness of people.

Of all candidates Fruscione did not respond to questions posed by the Niagara Gazette.

Fruscione said council members can help attract businesses and residents, not by giving Hamister giveaways, but by keeping taxes down and making city government efficient.

“Hold the line on taxes, make sure the perception, the cleanliness of the city is visible throughout the entire city” he said.

And for the act of trying to get more money for the city owned land, he was characterized as going for an "attempted money grab." He was a" bandits on the City Council," trying to "stick up this (Hamister) developer," the Buffalo News wrote.

"He and his co-conspirators'' whose "greed and incompetence" earned for him and his two colleagues the sobriquet "the three blind mice," "sabotaging an important project," for important ( Buffalo ) people."

Then in the final week before the primary, as the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble, we learned that a little flier made Hamister “99 percent” lean toward withdrawing his plan for his shabby five-story hotel.

Hamister said that only the personal involvement of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo kept him from pulling out.

Fliers aside, Fruscione wanted a letter of financial commitment from Hamister proving he has the funding for the project.

Hamister called the issue a “red herring.”

Hamister said concern over funding is “a cart and horse issue” - in order to have final financing in place, he said he has to have a franchise; to have a franchise, he has to have site control; and in order to have site control, he has to have a development agreement, Hamister said.

In other words, Fruscione was right. Hamister doesn't have the funding.

And in that final week, Fruscione denied any knowledge about where the mailer came from and said he had nothing to do with it, the one that disturbed the poor boy Hamister so much.

Fruscione was the subject of an anonymous mailer too, bashing him for selling tee shirts with the likeness of Steffano Maggadino in his souvenir shop.

Big deal.

"No, no," he said. "We don’t do 10 o’clock assassinations after the fireworks go off on Friday nights. We don’t glamorize our collection so we don’t sell a lot."

He challenged John Percy on showing what he really did at the NTCC.

He challenged Dyster on the Holiday Market.

Fruscione turned down the big deal Oishei matching grant to subsidize the NACC.

It had strings attached. Big shots from Buffalo .

Dyster curtseyed. Grandinetti drooled.

Grandinetti said, do you know who you are talking to, this is Mr. Robert Gioia, probably the greatest, most important, biggest man who ever set foot into this council chamber.

To me the greatest man or woman are the people who live in this city, Fruscione said.

Fruscione earned a lot of bad press for that.

Sure Dyster has shown his preference for Buffalo consultants.

He blew though $50 million of casino money with barely a trace of nothing to show.

But he made a lot of friends. And campaign supporters.

And Dyster, in the giddy orbit of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and consulting and construction Buffalo interests, can get campaign contributions.

And here is Fruscione: " My job, as a councilman, is to provide basic services. That’s what we’re here to do. Balance a budget, provide basic services, and make sure the taxes don’t go up."

Do you feel that Dyster is a spendthrift?

"It’s amazing. I’ve never seen a man spend like that in my entire life," Fruscione said. "If it’s your own cash, you can blow it however you want. I call Dyster a ‘tax and spend liberal’, that’s what he is - raise everybody’s taxes, spend all the money. I'm just the opposite, more fiscally conservative. (The council majority) is more into due process and checking things out. Where Dyster is more into rush it through, spend the money, no checks and balances."

I'll state my case, of which I'm certain:

He was born March 18, 1966. He went to 93rd Street School - in the heart of Love Canal and graduated from LaSalle in 1984. In high school he played fullback and center for the football team. He was the first in his family to go to college. 1984 to 1991, Niagara U, then Buff State . He has a bachelors degree in Social Studies, graduated sum cum laude from Buff State . He is a 5th grade teacher, with a masters degree in education. 22 years teaching 5th grade. Now he is Dean of Discipline at the Harry F. Abbatte Elementary School .

He is also a musician. He was drummer for “Virus-X” a 1980's punk band.

“I'm a punk, an independent guy. That’s just my nature. So it doesn’t matter to me if the big boys want me to do this. I will never accept a check from the big boys, a job from the big boys, I want nothing from the big boys.

"My philosophy is still the same," he said. "I still will get in your face. I will still question authority. I’ve never been part of the establishment. It evolved from being a musician to being a politician. I challenge authority and yet at the same time I’ve got the patience to teach up to 30, 10 and 11 year old children everyday. A lot of those kids have challenges and difficulties in life because some of them are very poor. You’ve got to have a lot of patience. I can appreciate where they're coming from because I was a little rough around the edges myself.”

When the mayor wanted to sell a $40 million total annual payout NYPA agreement for $13 upfront, the council majority stopped it. Fruscione was blunt.

"Yes, that would be like a crack head cashing out on an annuity inherited from his grandmother," Fruscione said "You can get out today for $2 grand or you can wait 10 years and get 20-grand."

In Venice in the Middle Ages there was once a profession for a man called codega--a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets.

Sam Fruscione is, I suppose, the codega for Niagara Falls.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

SEP 10, 2013