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APR 14 - APR 21, 2015

A Week in Stupid Politics

By James Szwedo

April 14, 2015

Mayoral candidate, James ‘Jim’ Szwedo doesn’t buy into the BS.

This article is brought to you by our elected politicians and those politicians seeking to be re-elected in the city of Niagara Falls, complete with a supporting castof their friends and families.

Andy Touma stopped by the Hub last week to promote the policies and accomplishments of the Dyster administration. He started out the interview with Craig Avery bytelling us a little bit about himself. He identified himself as Niagara Falls City Council Chairman, a teacher, and a Dean of Students in our school district. Whenasked by Craig if he had done anything else, he stated that, after college, he started his career in the private sector, but found that to be too difficult andcutthroat. This then began his long career working in the public sector.

This, my friends, is when his comments begin to get…"interesting", and make me wonder if he's there on behalf of the Council as a whole, or on behalf of the Mayor, tohelp promote his failed policies. Mr. Touma states that he and the Mayor meet weekly, discussing what is needed to continue moving the city in the right direction. Heextols the values and commitments made by the Dyster administration to Main Street and his transformational projects there. For example, the $50 million policestation, and the new $50 million inter-modal, multi-functional museum and train station.

He also said that the Mayor is working hard to keep the tourists in Niagara Falls for more than the four hours they normally spend here. He's doing this by promoting anew shuttle system he's working on to take visitors to the Lockport Locks, Fort Niagara, Becker Farms, and the Lewiston shopping districts.

How this, in any way, translates to more dollars in the pockets of businesses of the city of Niagara Falls, I don't know, since none of these places exist within ourcity. I guess I'll have to let the Councilman slide on this one, and chalk it up to naïveté.

At this point, I cannot let him slide any further, though. His next statement involves a private citizen and business owner whom he's never met. He proceeds to statethat Mr. Dick Hastings is a speculator who is holding the city hostage on Main Street, and that he has looked into seizing the man's property so that the city coulddevelop it in whichever way they saw fit. He further states that he spoke to Councilman Walker and to an attorney to see what this process involved, but he was toldthat he couldn't do it. But then he again stated that he felt it was important to let people know that he did try.

Perhaps the next time Mr. Touma stops by the Hub for their monthly talks and dinners with Craig, former Mayor Vince Anello, business leaders, and administrationpersonnel, he should look to his right, and bring that subject up to Roger Trevino. I can see it now: between courses, Andy says, "Gee, Rog, don't get mad, but youremployers don't seem to be doing anything with that land they spent $30 or $40 million investing in, so I'm having our attorneys look into what we can do to seize it".How long do you think it will take Roger and a raft of New York City lawyers to explain to this first-term Councilman about the rights of private citizens andbusinesses?

Someone really needs to explain how the process of eminent domain works to the Council Chairman. I don't believe he was speaking on behalf of the rest of the Council,and I don't believe he was speaking on behalf of the Mayor with whom he states he is so closely working. Both the Council and the Mayor would be smarter than that.They've both had experience in the process that is involved with enacting eminent domain and seizing property.

So once again, an ill-prepared politician is speaking of subjects he knows nothing about.

In full disclosure, I know Mr. Dick Hastings. I met him approximately 15 years ago, when he first started to invest in Niagara Falls. I watched as politicians cheeredwhen he purchased those downtrodden, vacant Main Street properties, which continued to show up at tax auction after tax auction. I watched as he brought thesebuildings back on the tax rolls. I watched as he invested his own money, not public funds, in building after building, apartment after apartment, trying to bring backwhat used to be a hub of activity in the city of Niagara Falls. I watched as the City Administration, the county, and the state, did nothing to help, but everything tohinder, development in that area of town.

When the Dyster administration spoke of how transformational their new police station courthouse project would be for Main Street, no one spoke to Dick about the 30+buildings he acquired and saved from the wrecking ball. No one spoke to Dick about how that would fit into the Mayor's new equation for Main Street. I once againwatched when the Dyster administration spoke of his so-called second transformational Main Street project, his inter-modal museum/train station, which was once againgoing to change the face and the direction of Main Street. And, once again, no one included Dick in their thoughts for redevelopment.

Almost eight years under this administration, Main Street languished, left to be tended to only by Dick Hastings, day in and day out. Plowing, shoveling, patching,cleaning, repairing; vandalism after vandalism, robbery after robbery. This administration did nothing to help, but everything to hinder, a man starting every day,thinking, "Today's the day someone will see what I've seen in Main Street". A man thinking, "Today's the day someone comes to help me save the last of our city'shistory".

Fifteen years, almost $2 million, two heart attacks, countless headaches. And no one came.

So now, in election year, another failed project is scheduled to come online: a train station with no operator in sight, destined to cost the taxpayers large amountsof money for many years to come. Destined to be another branch of this city's already-bloated administrative costs, operated by our Mayor's friends-and-family policy.So, in election year, our politician's answer is to go after a man who spent 15 years of his life, and his own money, trying to convince politicians that our city'shistory deserves to be saved? So, in election year, a first-term politician who admits he couldn't make it in the private sector decides that the answer to thisadministration's failed policy on development is to seize the property of a private citizen and businessman, who he never took the time to meet?

Perhaps if he had taken the time to meet the man, he would realize that he is not an obstructionist or a speculator, but rather a preservationist who values our city'shistory, and who has been able to keep it alive by saving a substantial portion of it. Perhaps if he had met the man, he would have shared in that vision, and offereda little bit of help to bring those ideas and passions into reality. Perhaps if he had taken the time to meet the man, he would have been able to see not a stubbornspeculator, but an intelligent visionary, who, with the drive of a man half his age, refused to give up on his dream for the future of Niagara Falls by saving animportant part of its past.

I stand behind Dick Hastings, and am proud to call him a friend. But then, I took the time to know him. When will our politicians finally realize that the directionfor a brighter future for Niagara Falls is actually in the hands of the citizens and businesses that have put the time and money into their visions, rather than thevision of our elected officials, who have nothing at stake and nothing to lose? The visions of failed politicians have brought us to this point, and only the visionsof our citizens and businesses can move us forward.

But, again, what do I know? I'm only a private citizen seeking public office.





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