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While Dyster Speaks of the Bureaucracy, Fruscione Snatches Microphone and Promises to Combat Rats

Sam Fruscione independent, he listens to the people.

Last Thursday, residents of the LaSalle community gathered in the basement of the Bacon Presbyterian Memorial Church at 166 59th St. in Niagara Falls to try to develop a strategy to fight the rat menace in the greater Covanta neighborhood.

Ronda Grose of Stephenson Ave., organized the meeting.

About 100 attended, all deeply concerned, if not tormented, by the sudden advent of rats in their neighborhood.

They listened politely as they learned that a professional rodent expert will survey the neighborhood, in cooperation with Covanta representatives, and create a plan to try to end this dreadful rodent menace.

The plan will call for rat extermination before removal of overgrown brush that lies behind the homes that have been plagued with rats.

The land is owned by the DOT and officials at the meeting said that to cut the brush now would cause the rats to scatter and complicate the extermination process.

After Grose made her opening remarks, the first speaker was Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster who launched into a tiresome, long-winded, nearly incomprehensible explanation about how it is not so easy to cut the brush if and when the time comes. He explained at length how the city purchasing process works regarding the hiring of a company to cut the brush and the various powers of the mayor versus the council.

Dude this meeting was about rats.

The crowd - for the only time of the entire evening - grew impatient.

They needed help and answers, they needed them now, but Dyster droned on about the technicalities of coordinating a plan that satisfies various legal requirements to clear brush with the DOT. Was all this explanation really necessary to cut a simple field of brush?

I was half expecting him to say he needed to hire a consultant to study how to cut the brush and get approval from the DOT and coordinate it with the council.

Finally, Councilman Sam Fruscione had heard enough. He walked up to the mayor, who, it seemed, was deeply engrossed by his intricate speech and enchanted by the sound of his own monotonic voice.

But Fruscione made a simple gesture, perhaps more illustrative of what, in times of trouble, strong men need to do: not talk, but take action.

Fruscione took the microphone away, took it gently but firmly right out of Dyster's hand - there were 100 eyewitnesses to this - and Fruscione told the crowd, "the city council will get that grass cut no matter what the DOT says!"

Whether the applause that followed was due to the councilman's direct approach and concern for their plight, or simply because he relieved them from the slow torture of having to hear Dyster drone on and on, is unclear.

But let this be clear: when Fruscione did this, the audience burst into applause.

Worth noting also is that Fruscione was the only council primary candidate in attendance. The Dyster rubber stamps, Kristen Grandinetti, Charles Walker and Andrew Touma failed to attend. This again shows the difference between Fruscione and them.

They are interested in creating art patronage with taxpayer dollars, appointing an art commissioner, funding Holiday Markets or promoting taxpayer funded concerts, approving the Hamister hotel proposal without even reading the contract and doing other fancy, easy stuff to make headlines.

But Fruscione was in the trenches. He was the first and to date the only council candidate to go out to the people and confront their problems with rats.

Fruscione, on a Thursday late summer evening, was dealing with the people's torment: rats.

Yes, there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Sam Fruscione is one of them.

After the applause died down, Dyster got a second shot at the audience and went on to blame the rat problem on "the storm we had in July when the sewers flooded."

He said "the water board is going to clean out the catch basins and investigate an abandoned local sewer line" as a possible source of rats.

Except for Fruscione, the entire spate of speakers blamed the July storm, clogged catch basins, a "possible abandoned local sewer line," overgrown brush, road construction on Buffalo Ave. and unkempt property.

But Fruscione called it: What about Covanta and the hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage they receive to burn for steam energy each year; isn’t that key to the rat infestation?

The residents offered to do their part by cleaning up their properties and removing items that attract rats such as bird baths, bird feeders, dog food, cat food and open garbage containers. The irony of Covanta having tons of open garbage on their property went unnoticed and unmentioned.

Perhaps nowhere was Dyster's insincerity on finer display than when he told the crowd, "I first met Ronda Grose as she contacted me through Facebook."

How appropriate that the mayor depends on adolescent Facebook as a method of communicating with residents in need of assistance.

Actually, Grose and her neighbors tried repeatedly to reach the mayor’s office but received no response. It was only after the council responded and the rat story became a front page story, following the Niagara Falls Reporter's cover story on the topic, did Dyster make Facebook contact.

Councilman and LaSalle area resident Bob Anderson supported Fruscione when he told the crowd that getting rid of rats will take a concentrated effort.

But who will make that effort?

It takes men with heart, who know that for residents of this neighborhood there is no bigger issue. Trumping train stations and taxpayer subsidized hotels is the large fact that rats are crawling through a neighborhood of people.

It is unpleasant and the problem not easy to solve.

Fruscione was there first. He said he would get the brush and weeds cut.

Courage is not a man with a microphone in his hand who makes no promises to ease the hurt of the people but only explains the difficulties, yet promises big, fancy things like hotels and train stations.

Courage is being able to know what people really need. What hurts them and knowing that you must begin and you must see it through no matter what.

Fruscione knows. You don’t always win, but sometimes you do.



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

SEP 03, 2013