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JULY 08 - JULY 16, 2014

Avery Calls for Owens' Ouster, But Why not Dyster?

By Anna M. Howard

July 08, 2014

Craig Avery is calling for Donna Owens to be fired.

Lewiston resident and Niagara Falls businessman Craig Avery has been making the rounds - local public meetings, the Vince Anello radio show and postings on his website - calling for the firing of city administrator Donna Owens for what he says is her poor handling of the trash/recycling program rollout.

His call for Owens' head culminated when the Niagara Gazette published a Sunday story (July 6) titled "Criticism Dumped on Falls City Administrator" in which Avery was given ink to demand Owens' ouster.

While the rollout of the trash/recycling program has been anything but well thought out, it can hardly be laid completely at the feet of Owens.

After all, Dyster hired Owens. She was first of a number of "best and brightest" selections made possible thanks to anonymous, private money courtesy of the Building a Better Niagara Fund. That fund, we always suspected, was a not-so-anonymous sack of cash courtesy of Buffalo power brokers. These are, we believe, the people who supported Dyster in 2007 and in 2011, and will support him for a third mayoral run in 2015.

Support him, that is, if Dyster listens to their directions and jettisons Owens in time to repair his political reputation.

The Reporter has long suspected Dyster doesn't do the play calling for Niagara Falls. Dyster, we believe, is a glorified water boy while the game plays are designed by a group of powerful businessmen operating out of Buffalo boardrooms and politicians who operate out of Albany.

Readers will recall the Reporter published a story, "Owens Likely Fall Guy for Dyster's City Garbage Hauling," on June 24, in which we wrote that Owens was headed for the dustbin of Niagara Falls political history with her dismissal rapidly approaching.

Did Avery forget who hired Owens? Did he forget it was Dyster who set her initial salary at $110,000 and proudly claimed she was worth every penny?

Where were Avery and his ilk as Dyster fired city engineer Bob Curtis and turned the construction management of the courthouse over to Dyster supporter David Jaros of LiRo Engineers where one campaign contributor (Jaros) monitored the work of another campaign contributor (Ciminelli and Largo Funding, as they built the courthouse)?

The courthouse ran millions over budget with more than 200 change orders, the raising of the final price and the cheapening of materials (lessening the cost for the developers), leaving behind a nearly $3 million per year financial debt to the city for 30 years.

He fired the city engineer who would have monitored the courthouse on day one of his administration and began construction of the courthouse within days. Who does this?

The Dyster train station was also over budget before it broke ground. Just before commencing that project, he again fired the city engineer, Jeffrey Skurka, leaving the city without a licensed engineer to monitor a $25 million job.

Meantime, Old Falls Street hasn't seen a single dollar of private investment during Dyster's years in office.

The Underground Railroad Interpretive Center is three years late in opening and millions in casino funds for the center remain unreported.

Dyster has spent millions on consultants to write reports that were never needed and won't be read, including two parking studies in coordination with USA Niagara.

Dyster continues to plow through casino cash and to date has yet to produce a casino-cash spending plan as he promised in June 2013.

He has blown through more than $150 million in casino cash. Where did it go? Has the city improved?

If that kind of money had been spent on roads and city beautification and services, even better garbage services, or tax reduction, the city would have been transformed. Instead he lavished it on campaign contributors for corporate welfare, and tomfoolery like Hard Rock concerts and Holiday Markets and other things that attract headlines and secure votes.

Then there is the Third Street redevelopment, which is a failure, and no one should know better than Avery who received, courtesy of Dyster, three grants to operate businesses on that street totaling more than $300,000.

Then there is the taxpayer subsidized Hamister hotel - where a hue and cry was raised for a so-called all important luxury hotel - which is now going to be a midscale business hotel (Hyatt Place). The plan was devised by Dyster and Buffalo power brokers, of which Hamister is one of the foremost.

Under Dyster, the salaries for his best and brightest have swelled to $100,000 levels due primarily to Dyster's anonymous Buffalo cash. That lobbyist slush fund was surely illegal and the Reporter wrote at length on the matter, being the only media to report on the "dark" money and furtive intentions of having private, anonymous donors subsidize salaries at city hall. While the council canceled the anonymous fund, they somehow kept the $100,000 salaries, nearly doubling city hall department head salaries from the days of the Anello administration to the Dyster administration.

But Donna Owens had nothing directly to do with any of the above mishandling of public money. Yet Avery would have us believe she must immediately - due to the trash/recycling screw-up - be sent packing.

Yet Dyster approved the garbage plan! Owens works for him.

Will Owens remain as administrator?

We believe it is unlikely. Her removal is being engineered by powerful individuals in Buffalo even as you read this. The Reporter has spoken with several impeccable sources who have told us of the behind-the-scenes machinations in gripping detail.

Nothing less than Dyster's shot at a third term are at stake, and that would mean Buffalo and Albany interests are in jeopardy if someone loyal to Niagara Falls interests were to win election.

We predict Dyster will sit on his hands as the clamor for Owens' head grows. Finally, she will be taken for the proverbial ride and be done away with.

After which Dyster, with help from the media, will be absolved of any responsibility related to the trash/recycling program.

Remember you read it here first.





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