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FEB 17 - FEB 24, 2015

Choolokian Will Run Grassroots Campaign Against Heavily Funded Dyster A busy election season is expected

By Frank Parlato

February 17, 2015

It's official.

Councilman Glenn A. Choolokian, 48, is running for mayor of Niagara Falls.

In this democratic city he will run against incumbent Mayor Paul A. Dyster in the Democratic primary.

Dyster was elected in 2007 and began serving in 2008.

Choolokian ran for council in 2011 and won the narrowest of victories.

Running alongside Dyster, his handpicked candidate, Alicia Laible, won the Democratic primary for council beating Choolokian by 130 votes. But Choolokian secured the Republican line, and beat her in the November general election by 232 votes.

Laible went on to become the chairwoman for the city Democratic party. Last week she resigned and sources say she is contemplating running again for city council.

The primary between Choolokian and Dyster may be closer than some may think.

A live phone voter survey conducted about a month ago by the local Republican Party asked residents if they thought leadership in Niagara Falls was going in a positive direction? And, more specifically, was Mayor Dyster doing a good job?

According to a source familiar with the poll and its results, more than 75 percent answered no.

The poll also asked who residents would vote for in head to head contest between Dyster and Choolokian, Dyster and John Accardo and Dyster and Robert Restaino.

Although Republicans are tight lipped about the results, it was not lost on anyone that shortly after the poll results were tabulated, Accardo announced he was entering the race on the Republican line.

Restaino, a school board member and lawyer, told supporters he does not plan to run for mayor. Sources say he is considering a run for council, or, in the event that County Legislator Jason Zona decides not to seek reelection, Restaino is said to be mulling a run for county legislator, something that both the Democrat and Republican partly local leaders seem to support.

Zona told the Reporter he is as yet undecided about whether he will seek reelection this year.

In any event, giving an extra measure of solid chances to a Choolokian victory over the incumbent, Dyster, is that Choolokian is a hard worker, known for his door to door campaigning.

But Dyster will have the support of the local Democratic committee. He will also have a large cash advantage over Choolokian.

A survey of contributors to Dyster made by the Reporter not long ago showed that 19 of 42 contributions came from donors who live outside of Niagara Falls, most of them from Erie County. These made up 47.5 percent of money donated.

The list of Dyster supporters is a who's who of Buffalo's engineering, legal and consulting community.

Here is a sampling of contributors - either the company - or a principal of the company who have in the past donated to Dyster's campaigns.

Urban Engineers of N.Y., which got work at the city's Rainbow ramp.

Architect Clinton Brown, who made the application to designate the mayor's street a federal and state historic district and is now working on a low income housing project for the site of the old South Junior High School.

David Jaros of LiRo Engineering, which supervised the building of the courthouse.

Foit Albert which designed plans for 10th Street, and other projects.

Clough Harbour and Associates which got consulting work

Susan Sherwood of Wendel Engineering, whose company is overseeing the train station.

Michael Mistriner of Cannon Design who designed the Culinary Institute.

Buffalo law firms that contributed to Dyster include Hudgson Russ, which gets much of the outside legal work; Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel; Cantor Lukasik Dolce & Panepinto; Earl Key, Francis Letro, Magavern Magavern & Grimm; and Philips Lytle.

Ciminelli Construction and financier Gary Coscia of Amherst also contributed to Dyster. They built the courthouse.

Recipients of grants on Third Street, Craig Avery and Michael Lewis, also made donations.

While many donors subsequently got work with the city, not all who donated to Dyster got work.

The mayor of a city has wide discretion in selecting an engineer, architect, consultant or lawyer- since these are considered professional services. The mayor does not have to put it out for bid, but can select the professional company he wishes.

Dyster told the Reporter that a company that makes a contribution to his campaign has no better chance of getting work with the city than a company that does not.

"All the recommendations are made by professional staff -- engineering, planning, legal, etc.," Dyster told the Reporter. "I certainly never tried to influence or overrule their recommendations.

"Naturally, every politician solicits campaign donations. Your hope is that the people who donate won't expect special favors from you, but (will donate) to get good government."

Dyster's opponent, Choolokian, however, is unlikely to get money from any Buffalo firms.

During the four years Choolokian has been a councilman he has opposed many of Dyster's spending policies and criticized Dyster's use of outside lawyers, engineers and consultants.

Choolokian said he expects to get only local support and in small donations of under $100.

"I will hold some fund raisers," Choolokian said, "Whatever I get I know how to spend it. I try to get the most bang for my buck."





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Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina