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FEB 17 - FEB 24, 2015

In His Own Words: Choolokian Explains His Decision to Run For Mayor

By Glenn Choolokian

February 17, 2015

Over the past seven years the Niagara Falls residents have been put on the outside of city government, and have been made spectators more than participants as the city has been turned over to consultants and out-of-town campaign contributors. I have sat by and watched as a resident and a councilmember how the current administration has led our city down a road of destruction. It's time for the residents and our needs to come first. It's time for responsible and transparent government. It's time for a new direction and a new leader. I feel I am a strong leader that this city needs and deserves and that's why I'm running for mayor.

The Dyster administration has taken non-transparency to a level never before seen as millions of dollars in casino funds are planned for spending behind closed doors and then presented to the council and residents at the last minute, time and again.

The trash and recycling plan was perhaps the best example of "government by secrecy" as the mayor and city administrator dropped the plan on the residents at the eleventh hour when the administration had more than two years to prepare a trash and recycling plan.

A candidate's campaign platform should be more than an empty sales pitch designed to get them over the election line and then be tossed away. A campaign platform should be a pledge to the voters as to what changes the candidate is going to bring.

With that in mind I want to share some portions of my platform with you now so we all know where we stand, candidate and voter, straight out of the gate.

I want to bring believable transparency to city government. No more secret deals and closed-door meetings when open door meetings will do just fine. I refuse to sell out the city to Buffalo business interests, consultants and campaign contributors.

The municipal budget process will be fully examined and made workable with all budget information being posted on line so every resident can see where the money is and where the money went. The city debt will be examined and posted right along with the budget.

City employees will no longer be targeted as the source of all city financial problems. The Dyster administration has blamed the employees for their pay and benefits when the truth of the matter is the rank and file has never been the problem. The fact is the Dyster administration has taken the top city hall salaries, and stipends, to unheard of and unsupportable levels and now blames the rank and file for the cost of government.

There's a city train station coming on line and it has no visible means of support. That's totally unacceptable and yet another example of how the Dyster administration plans and builds but never plans to support what they build.

The Jayne Park Plan was forced on the Cayuga Island neighborhood to satisfy the mayor's need to spend a grant and satisfy a friend of the administration. Nowhere in this administration has its lack of respect for the residents been more obvious than with the Jayne Park Plan. The wishes of the residents were ignored time and again and their petition to stop the plan was rudely set aside.

Crime in the city has become like the weather, we all talk about it but very little is done about it. And that's not for a lack of crime fighting by our police. We need to develop a crime-fighting plan that brings in the residents and block clubs with our police.

I am proposing a crime-fighting summit that will bring the Niagara County Sheriff, the State Police, Park Police, Border Patrol and Homeland Security to the table to review where our city is and to plan for where we want to be in fighting crime. It's time to stop being defensive over which city has the worst crime statistics it's time to develop a plan to lower crime in the city. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting that there is a problem.

I will open up our downtown tourism core to potential developers from across the nation and the world. I believe there's been an effort for many years in the city to guarantee that the downtown sees no development unless local powerful people approve it. When you take that fact and put it together with the fact that Albany never seems to act in our best interests regarding the State Park, well, it's time for a change.

In 2013 the city received a casino revenue windfall. That was almost two years ago and while the mayor promised to show us a casino-spending plan in June 2103 he has yet to share that plan with the residents. We need, immediately, two things: a thorough clarification from the state as to how casino revenue can be used along with a casino revenue plan to work from.

In the past seven years the city has been virtually without a city engineer and that is a violation of the city charter by the Dyster administration. During this same time we have spent $100,000,000 on the courthouse and train station without the benefit and protection of a licensed city engineer. That's not only foolish it's bad government.

As for that trash plan, we're going to review the contract, all program costs and do whatever we can (within the confines of the contract that the administration has hamstrung us) to repair the damage. Public input will be most welcome.

In my administration you won't see an effort to silence public speakers that take time to attend city meetings. I'll be approachable and believe me I will attend all public city meetings.

It's insulting to the residents when office holders complain that the residents are taking up too much of their time. And it's even more insulting to run for mayor and then refuse to hold press conferences, dodge the council meetings and refuse to share finance information with the public by hiding the budget for 37 days.

The future leadership of Niagara Falls must make a commitment to its residents. A commitment to improve all parts of our communities. We have to work together to address our problems and meet the challenges of tomorrow. Together we must have a vision and we must dedicate ourselves in helping to change the things that can be and should be better in our city. It's simple, it's about our families and doing what's right. I look forward to hearing from you over the coming months.







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