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JULY 08 - JULY 16, 2014

Taxpayers Sing the Blues as Dyster Squanders Their Cash

By Mike Hudson

July 08, 2014

Mayor Dyster keeps insisting - for seven years now - that the cash-strapped residents of this rapidly deteriorating city fund a music event he has chosen to bless…the Niagara Falls Blues Festival. Yes, Mayor Paul Dyster has the blues. And we’re paying for it. (above) Cool Mayor: An actual picture Dyster used to promote the festival.
The blues are the unique product of the Mississippi Delta and were first sung and played by black men and black women who did indeed have plenty of blues to sing about.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has never been forced to sing the blues. Born with a silver foot in his mouth and so white he sort of disappears during the daytime, Dyster hasn't had much call for songs with lyrics such as B.B. King wrote for his classic "No Money, No Luck Blues."

"Lord, what can a poor boy do?

"Well, ain't it bad when you can't make no money,

"Seems like all the bad breaks will come to you."

Likewise, the lyrics to LaVerne Baker's "Money Blues" have eluded Dyster throughout his privileged life.

"Daddy, I need money, give it to your honey Daddy,

"I need money now.

"Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, daddy, I need money now."

No, when your parents are wealthy to the point that your mother has a wing at the local hospital named after her, the plaintive wails of the disenfranchised and dispossessed men and women who created the first truly American art form in the Mississippi Delta a century ago just don't have much bearing.

Unless, of course, like Dyster, you fancy yourself some sort of rock and roller.

Niagara Falls Blues Festival organizer Toby Rotella put it this way a couple of years ago.

"The blues is the music that never grows old, it keeps you young at heart," said Rotella. "As my friend Muddy Waters used to say, 'The blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll.'"

So how does a child of upper class privilege deal with the discomfort caused by love for a form of music that generally paints those of his background and upbringing as the bad guys? Well, pretty much the same way he deals with everything else.

He throws money at it and, in Dyster's case he throws other people's money at it.

A couple of weeks ago, Dyster sought $40,000 to give to the Hard Rock Café to stage a rock concert. He has squandered more than $700,000 of public money on concerts staged by the Hard Rock, and helped generate untold profits for the Niagara Falls franchise of that multinational corporation, owned wholly by the Seminole Indian Tribe.

Dyster wants city residents, we suspect, to keep paying for his blues festival because next year is an election year. The mayor has to keep his friends satisfied, and bluesy, as he seeks a third term behind the big desk on city hall’s first floor. This 2008 picture is of Dyster at the first Blues Fest.

The City Council turned him down flat, in a surprise vote that saw presumed Dyster ally Andrew Touma voting against staging the concert.

Not to be put off, Dyster this week proposed that the $40,000 be used to fund a different concert, Rotella's blues festival.

This is the seventh year for the festival, which has previously been subsidized by the city to the tune of between $5,000 and $20,000. Why and how Dyster arrived at the $40,000 figure is anyone's guess, but the fact that is the exact same amount he proposed for the ill fated Hard Rock concert probably is not coincidental.

In 2008 the Niagara Falls Blues Festival was launched by Mayor Paul Dyster’s friends and campaign supporters. First held on Third Street, it has moved to Old Falls Street. Dyster used city funds from 2008 through 2012 to support his favorite music event at varying financial levels. Some of the subsidy goes to purchase the beer, which is a major ingredient in Blues Fests.

Last night, when Councilman Andy Touma modified the mayor's request downsizing the gift to $10,000, the mayor balked and postponed the request until the next meeting. At least through next year, Niagara Falls will be saddled with a chief executive who truly believes that public funding of musical entertainments is appropriate in a city where the streets are in disrepair, crime is out of control, and the garbage is about to start piling up.

With all the people who like Blues, you would think the Festival could pay for itself with public money.





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