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JUNE 2 - JUNE 10, 2015

Palillo’s “Silly Season” Remains Niagara Falls Political Constant

By Mike Hudson

JUNE 2, 2015

How many roads must a man/woman/ transgender walk before they can call him a ....?
Dyster hoists the flag with pride.

Silly season is upon us.

It officially began on May 29 at City Hall. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster hoisted a red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet standard up the flagpole, choosing Memorial Day weekend to honor not the veterans who fought and died for our freedoms but the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, a small but prosperous voting block here in Western New York.

The event was sponsored by the Rainbow City Coalition, a volunteer organization that represents LGBT interests in Niagara Falls. How much that “sponsorship” amounted to in individual contributions to the Dyster campaign is unknown.

Where will it all end, some wondered.

Heterosexuals are flagless. The Nation of Islam has a pretty sharp looking red flag though, and with a bit of pressure and a couple of bucks to grease the wheels, it’s quite likely they could get Dyster to run it up the flagpole on Malcolm X’s birthday or something.

According to the good folks at the Rainbow Citizen Coalition, who adjourned to the 24 Below Gallery and Café on Third Street for some drinks following the flag raising, the timing of Dyster’s gesture reflected the beginning of June, which, they say, is Gay Pride Month so maybe the time to raise the Nation of Islam flag might be January 29, in order to get the February 1 start of Black History Month off to a proper start.

The National Rifle Association also flies a red flag and, although there’s no such thing as Gun Pride Month it is likely that proud gun owners make up at least as large a percentage of the Niagara Falls populace as lesbians, gay men, the bisexual and transgendered combined.

Indeed, while there isn’t a decent gay bar to be found in the city, one can hear gunshots on any given night in most neighborhoods.

Dyster’s meaningless and pandering gesture was a fitting kickoff to what his predecessor, former mayor Jake Palillo, dubbed the silly season, a time when politicians do strange things, anonymous mailers accuse candidates of having mafia ties, being racist or worse, nominating petitions are fraudulently signed or honestly signed ones are challenged at the Board of Elections and pretty much nothing gets done in city government.

Palillo formalized the start of silly season on Memorial Day weekend and wasn’t above engaging in a bit of silliness himself, though he didn’t get much of a chance, as he was the first in a series of one term mayors the city suffered under until Dyster was reelected in 2011, giving the city the opportunity to suffer under him for eight years rather than four.

Episode 2 of silly season came last week when Willie Price, an African American candidate for city Council running with the backing of the Republican Party, had that backing taken away because of a couple of posts he made on his Facebook Page. For all the tsk tsking one might have thought that he’d posted that he was leaving the Catholic Church he’d been raised in because of its antediluvian treatment of women, but that was sitting city Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti who did that and she didn’t get in any trouble at all.

Grandinetti regularly posts about sexual issues on her Facebook page and was the sparkplug behind the effort to get the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender flag flying at City Hall. Only a cynic would say that the fact that Grandinetti is a woman and a Democrat while Price is an African American Republican has anything to do with the disparate treatment they’ve received but, hey, silly season is upon us.

A classic silly season campaign, and one that was extremely effective, was directed against former city council chairman Sam Fruscione in the runup to the 2013 election. Fruscione had the temerity to question the gifting of a piece of downtown city property to a fly by night Buffalo millionaire named Mark Hamister.

Dyster wanted to give the property, valued at well over $1 million, to Hamister in return for a token payment of $100,000 because Hamister said he needed it to build a new luxury resort style hotel on right away. Fruscione balked, asking for proof that Hamister had enough money to build the hotel and all hell broke loose.

Fruscione was sympathetic to the mafia, anonymous sources said. He was an obstructionist, standing in the way of a “transformative project” that would create hundreds of jobs and benefit Niagara Falls for generations to come, Dyster and his allies charged. The local television and print media railed against Fruscione and, before it was over, so did Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. The voters were duped and Fruscione lost badly in the Democratic primary.

We all know what happened after the election. Hamister’s net worth went up by more than $1 million based on a land deal that saw him acquire a prime piece of taxpayer owned real estate for pennies on the dollar. The only occasions he’s been anywhere near Niagara Falls since is when he’s gone before the county Industrial Development Agency to beg for more money.
The promised groundbreaking in the early spring of 2014 never happened. More than a year has gone by and it still hasn’t happened. All of the concerned individuals and media organizations that called for Fruscione’s head on a platter for delaying the project are silent now that it’s Hamister doing the delaying.

The project itself has been downgraded, from a luxury resort destination to kind of a Motel 6 deal where free HBO in your room is considered a luxurious amenity. And instead of more than 100 permanent jobs, the developer admitted in an application for more taxpayer money that fewer than 10 jobs would be created. That figure is pretty believable, because lying on the application could result in perjury charges. The gullible voters of Niagara Falls who fell for Dyster’s claptrap must be feeling pretty silly.

And silly season is upon us once again.





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